A recovery path to circular economy post COVID-19

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In the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Government around the world has put in a lot of money for a recovery that is in alignment with other global challenges. Many see a rare opportunity to build a resilient and low-carbon economic recovery. Achieving this goal requires governments to take critical actions that not only focus on safeguarding national economies during crises, but that also pave the path toward a wider and more resilient economic transformation against future global risks.

The circular economy, as an instrument to decouple economic growth
from resource use and environmental impact, opens up the way for
a resilient recovery.

In fact, circular economy not only addresses the negative impacts of the
linear economy, but more importantly it represents a systemic shift
that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic
opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits.

A circular economy offers a tangible pathway towards a low-carbon and prosperous recovery.

Therefore, circular economy remains highly relevant as new sources of growth and economic renewal.

Achieving such a recovery will require the rethinking, resetting, and redesigning of the economy from one that is merely reactive in a time of
crisis to one that is prosperous, inclusive, low-carbon, and mitigates the risk of future crises.

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Reformist vs Transformational approach: Sustainable world

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What is the difference between Reformist vs Transformational approach?

Let’s see the comparison between reformist and transformational approach to sustainable world as below:

Reformism

Reformism, is assessed in terms of:

(a) PAT

How to assess PAT?

Ecological Footprint Analysis (Footprint Analysis) in conjunction with PAT identity (PAT representing humanity’s ecological impact (I) as a function of population (P), consumption/production per capita (A), and technologies used in the consumption/production process (T)), and

(b) Sustainable development

Next, some of the key strategies advocated by business by which this sector proposes it can make a contribution to a sustainable world, namely maximisation of renewable natural resource productivity, efficiency of resource use in production, and the uptake of more environmentally friendly production and consumption practices.

Thus, Reformist goal of continued human development or, more commonly, sustainable development (The dominant socio-economic system is that of an economic growth model encompassing free trade, globalisation, a key role for multi-national corporations.

Also, Reformism focus on technological advance, and human wellbeing progressed through increased personal income and consumption.

Transformational

On the other hand, the Transformational approach sees the current dominant socio-economic system as a root cause of current unsustainable behaviours and, to progress a sustainable world, transformational change is needed.

Key features of this approach include:

(a) human wellbeing as best progressed through consumptive sufficiency and a focus on wellbeing through life experiences,

(b) continued consumptive growth as unsustainable and a primary cause of both ecological problems and poverty,

(c) poverty as best resolved through resource reallocation not more global-level resource-throughput growth, with a key role for the rich, to stop the exploitation of resources from the politically and economically weak, and

(d) constraints placed on use of the Earth’s natural resources such that it remains within ecosystem limits.

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Malaysia’s path to greener environment

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MALAYSIA’S LOW CARBON DEVELOPMENT PATHWAY

Malaysia has made an ambitious commitment to reduce the intensity of its carbon
emissions, notably a 40% reduction (compared to 2005 levels) by 2020 and a 45%
reduction (compared to 2005 levels) by 2030.

However, there are several challenges to this commitment.

Malaysia’s challenge is to decarbonize its energy-centric economy in the face of
population growth pressures and substantial levels of poverty.

The percent emission reduction achieved through various mitigation tools in 2013 (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, 2015)

Figure 1 illustrates the percent emission reduction achieved through various mitigation tools in 2013 (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, 2015).

Malaysia’s Low-carbon policy tools include Strengthen Forest Management and Conservation, Increase Renewable Energy Use and Improve Urban Planning and Promote Public Transportation.

How can business response to COVID-19?

holding card with COVID-19

“This is not just a public health crisis; it is a crisis that will touch every sector. So, every sector and every individual must be involved in the fights,” quoted by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO).

The coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) pandemic posed a massive global health disaster, economic and social crisis. What are the impacts of COVID-19?

During a critical period like the COVID-19 pandemic disaster filled with fear and uncertainty, the people worldwide are strongly committed to working together and supporting each other in every way possible, including business communities.

Businesses can engage in CSR programs

Business should endure various initiatives to help their employees, customers, and communities during this crisis period through the
various CSR programs as they did before.

CSR is treated as an excellent tool for accomplishing sustainable development by offering a win-win strategy. CSR also permits companies to enhance their financial performance and, at the same time, deliver abundant social benefits that can fuel the people to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic period and overcome the crises.

These CSR actions confirmed that the business and society are intertwined (McLennan & Banks, 2019), as well as it is the best neighbor of the community and vice versa.

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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) : How much it means to environment?

green tree in jungle

Economic development and prosperity are mainly driven by corporates and businesses. In the past, revenue and profit were the only key accounting measures of many organizations.

The main goal for business strategy is to increase shareholders value, in the extent of putting profit ahead of people, environment and society. For example, companies would exploit natural resources to earn short term profit without even thinking of the long-term consequences of their action to the society and environment. This has brought negative impact to the environment due to the exploitation of natural resources.

However, with global pressure to reduce the negative environmental footprint, changing of consumer mindset and stringent environment regulations, there are more corporates and businesses which already shift to a more holistic way of business performance measurement.

The Triple Bottom Line

There are more organizations that accepted “The Triple Bottom Line” approach which stress equally on people, planet and profit in the business performance measurement. Besides, corporate social responsibility also stresses the importance of meeting triple bottom line while maximizing profit.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the implementation of business strategies and practices that does not harm the environment and its natural resources. And at the same time, create social value for the society by having employment and generates economic output in terms of profit.

CSR projects:

Sustainable development project can include:

  • Green materials in new construction,
  • Clean and renewable energy,
  • Designing projects that can harvest own energy or incorporate green space in the organizations and others.

On the other hand, business sustainability refers to the company’s ability to survive into the future. There is an inseparable link between corporate social responsibility and business sustainability in current marketplace. Doing business ethically and responsibly can influent the financial ability and the future of the business.

Short term corporate profit may grow through unethical or irresponsible means which jeopardize the environment and society. However, these unsustainable business practices cannot build customer loyalty, build strong brand reputation, or meet legal compliance in the long term. Doing the right things is a commitment to social responsibility which can stand the test of time.

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What do you need to know about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)?

SDG goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries, whether developed or developing, to engage in a global partnership. The target to achieve the goals are by 2030 in general. What is sustainable development indicator, click here!

They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are:

(1) No Poverty, (2) Zero Hunger, (3) Good Health and Well-being, (4) Quality Education, (5) Gender Equality, (6) Clean Water and Sanitation, (7) Affordable and Clean Energy, (8) Decent Work and Economic Growth, (9) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, (10) Reducing Inequality, (11) Sustainable Cities and Communities, (12) Responsible Consumption and Production, (13) Climate Action, (14) Life Below Water, (15) Life On Land, (16) Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, (17) Partnerships for the Goals.

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What are the top 3 challenges that all business faces during COVID-19?

COVID-19

The Impact of COVID-19 on business

The COVID-19 pandemic has impaired the economy and life of the business. To stop the spread of the COVID-19 crisis, Government worldwide has taken the steps to shut down economic activities, lock down measure to stop and contain the pandemic. The COVID-19 has exposed major vulnerabilities of company operations and supply chain linked to the conditions of work and disaster planning. What is new model of economy, click here!

holding card with COVID-19
The negative impacts of COVID-19 on companies worldwide can be seen in economically, socially, and environmentally.

What are the top 3 challenges that all business faces during COVID-19 pandemic?

1. Financial crisis

The most direct impact of COVID-19 to the business worldwide is the financial crisis. The COVID-19 has caused financial distress and liquidity problems for many businesses worldwide due to the reduction or cancellation of businesses. This has caused a lot of job cut and job loss. Some companies that impacted financially chose to retain employees, but also implement measures such as salary reduction or pay cut. The termination of job has increased the unemployment figures emerging from impacted countries. Check out 3 ways to achieve sustainable development.

2. Heath and safety of employees

On the other hand, for companies that can continue business activities in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, protecting the health and safety of the employees is becoming the top priority. However, many business struggles to identify the right balance of measures and safeguards to protect the workers from being exposed to the risk of the virus, including limit physical interaction at work, enhanced sanitary measure or encourage teleworking.

As a result of that, there are many COVID-19 cases that spread from the workplace. The continued circulation of goods and workers create the potential vector of contamination and may lead to negative environmental impacts. Increase dependent on digital communication technologies also create new risks to privacy and misuse of personal and proprietary data.

3. Disruption on supply chain

Besides the impacts on the business operation, business also faced major disruptions in the supply chain. Both demand and supply side disruptions has intensified the socio-economic impact. Suppliers may face the difficult situation to continue their activities and honor contract due to order cancellation or delay in payment. 

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3 ways to achieve sustainable development!

hand holding plant and eart

The key to achieving sustainable governance in the new, full-world context is an integrated approach. This apply across disciplines, stakeholders groups, and generations which are based on paradigm of “adaptive management”, whereby policy-making is an iterative experiment acknowledging uncertainty. Are human causing more harm to the nature, click here to know!

The principles

Within this paradigm, 6 core principles or the Lisbon principles embody the essential criteria for sustainable governance and the use of common natural and social capital assets:

Principle 1: Responsibility

Principle 2: Scale-matching

Principle 3: Precaution

Principle 4: Adaptive Management

Principle 5: Full cost allocation

Principle 6: Participation

3 ways to achieve sustainable development!

  1. Respecting ecological limits

Once society has accepted the world-view that the economic system is sustained and contained by our finite global ecosystem, it is obvious that we must respect ecological limits. This requires us to understand precisely what these limits entail, and where economic activity currently stands in relation to them.

However, our limited understanding of ecosystem structure and function, and the dynamic nature of ecological and economic systems, means that this precise point may be difficult to determine.

  1. Protecting capabilities for flourishing

Reduced working hours can increase flourishing by improving the work-life balance, and there is evidence that fewer working hours can reduce the consumption-related environmental impacts. A sense of community which is necessary for democracy is hard to maintain across vast income difference.

The main justification for such differences has been that they stimulate growth, which will one day making everyone rich. However, in our full world, with its steady-state or contracting economy, this is unrealistic.  Without aggregate growth, poverty reduction requires redistribution.

  1. Building a sustainable macro-economy

The central focus of macro-economy policies is to maximize economic growth, lesser goals include price stabilization and ensuring full employment. If society adopt the central economic goal of sustainable human well-being, the macro-economy policy will change drastically. A key leverage point is the current monetary system.

However there are several serious with this monetary system as it is highly destabilizing, the current system systematically transfers resources to the financial sector, the banking system will only create money to finance market activities that can generate the revenue required to repay the debt plus interest, and the system is ecologically unsustainable.

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The 3 conflicting issues to achieve sustainable development!

couple arguing

There are a lot of challenges, criticisms of conservation. There are many critics of the corporate style of the large international conservation organizations which dependent on the donations from corporations especially from those millionaires who have profited from the growth.

The 3 critics to achieve sustainable development:

The path dependence of big corporation

This is the conflicting issue of conservation’s unthinking endorsement of economic growth, in actual the path dependence is powerful. This is because the constraint of operating within the evolving scaffolding of corporate relations has left conservation unable to challenge capitalism or the growth agenda.

Despite the manifest impacts of the energy and material resources of growing economies, conservationists have found it difficult to challenge the conservation’s own progressive neoliberalization, its capture by capitalism.

Biodiversity conservation organizations are not important among degrowth actors.

There are possible four elements of a degrowth-based conservation:

  • The first element is it consist of the pursuit of radical efficiency in the area of energy and material consumption in the practice of conservation. Greater efficiency in energy and material consumption is possible for conservation, but the strategy falls far short of the embrace of the principles of degrowth.
  • The second element of a degrowth-based conservation strategy could be the individual disconnection and lifestyle transformation. The appropriate response for conservationists is a return to the land and self-sufficiency faced by the unsustainability of the growth economy, which could be unrealistic and invite criticism excessively. There is a challenge for conservationists to extend their concern about biodiversity loss to clear lifestyle commitments.
  • The third element in conservation under degrowth might involve an element of restructuring. In the 20th century, conservation developed as a science-driven mission, developing centrally agreed strategies, overseen by a panopticon of expertise, in the form of technologies such as remote sensing, geographic information science, and genetic barcoding of nature, and in the lists of the rare and near-extinct, and the assessment of risk and the prioritization of action, enforced by appropriate authorities from above through coerced behaviour.  Under the degrowth, conservation would be seen as a distributed social practice, something that is not enforced, but which emerges from the decisions of citizens, a democratic expression that embrace both the human and the non-human.
  • The final element is conservation under degrowth might involve the re-imagination of nature.

The problem to see nature as pristine

There is a problem to see or view nature as pristine, standing threatened but essentially unchanged in a world increasingly transformed by human consumption. This is because human transformation is profound and universal through the anthropogenic influence on climate change. The balance of nature, and ecosystem in equilibrium are dynamic and subject to changes in state at a variety of scales.

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