Recent trends in the business world have raised concerns as to whether businesses and countries will be able to successfully have resources to sustain production in the future. Issues of environmental pollution and depletion of resources have led governments, leading industrial companies and even regulatory bodies together with other organizations like the United Nations to raise their concerns as to whether the world will run out of resources soon (Olson 1999).
Current trends that have brought about changes in global climate patterns in the world have led countries to reconsider their stand and commitment towards sustaining the environment (Brown 2002).
Corporate entities together with governments and individuals are all responsible for taking care of the environment and have embarked on strategies that will preserve water bodies, the soil air, vegetation, and animals which have all become casualties because of the various commercial human activities taking place in the world (Natural Resources Defense Council 2005).
Although many corporate bodies have time and again been blamed for using unorthodox operation techniques that have led to the detriment of the environment, governments around the world have been forced to intervene and to lead from the front by discouraging pollution and abuse of the environment by employing environment management that will force business to come up with sustainable business activities (Bullard 2007).
It has thus become imperative that businesses embark on efforts that will ensure that they replenish the stock of natural resources under their jurisdiction as they continue to grow and produce finished products.
The concerns of Sustainability have turned out to be a very central part of business for numerous firms that are global businesses because firms have realized if they behave irresponsibly, there may be no future resources for them to engage in production and this will lead to the death of economies and many corporate entities.
Corporate leaders are incorporating sustainable business strategies into the complete cycle of the processes of the entire business processes especially when sourcing raw materials, manufacturing and even disposal after use by their loyal consumers.
The concept of sustainability can be said to be “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Desjardins 2007).
‘Triple-bottom line’ approach is now a common term that is used by experts to ensure that businesses are able incorporates; environmental/ecological stewardship, social stewardship (equity and well-being of humans and community) and economic stewardship (valuing financial continuity over profit).
The triple bottom line in this case has changed the historical business orientation that forced businessmen to dwell only on issues of profitability and making money now entrepreneurs and corporate entities must also aim to improve the environment and also the society as they take care of shareholder interests (Gifford 2006).
The government has thus put in place necessary mechanisms and procedures that aim to ensure that businesses in the long run become a part of Sustainability efforts this is because government efforts alone will be futile without incorporating efforts of the largest stakeholders which are businesses (Mira d’Ercole & Salvini 2003).
What role should business and government play in advancing the sustainability debate especially knowing that there can be no future for business and industrial growth if issues of sustainability are put on hold or ignored in the present?
Natural resources are a very important factor of production and the process of manufacturing products are responsible for adding and creating value, with this in mind the key role of the government in SD is to use command and control regulation tools in order to ensure businesses are responsible and adhere to the SD standards.
Bodies like United Nations through United Nations Environmental Programme, World Bank, IMF, other bodies such as Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources are able to set international standards and give policy suggestions/guidelines which are considered very important in SD.
These Standards serve as key to setting performance standards and government policies in various places within the world.
Governments are responsible for overseeing the entire SD process within their countries and region by fostering policy integration, setting the necessary timeframe, analyzing and assessing the actual situation, ensuring that all stakeholders play their part by participating appropriately, setting the indicators and targets and finally monitoring and evaluating performance.
In the United States of America, the government has set up numerous agencies to take care of the countries SD concerns the Environmental Protection Agency is one such agency that takes care of Environmental and Social concerns of the triple bottom line.
The EPA ensures that businesses and corporate giants implement sustainable development strategies that will not only conserve the environment but also guarantee future availability of resources. A good example of the EPA swinging into action is when General Motors was found to have violated environmental quality standards by releasing excessive wastes into the Hudson River (CorpWatch 2010).
The river is a source of livelihood and part of the society and ecological system and it is thus the duty of the organization to come up with appropriate waste disposal techniques that do not violate and endanger those who depend on it and this is why the agency intervened. It is thus clear that the government is responsible for overseeing integration and implementation of SD policies (Epstein 2008).
The Japanese government for example has developed an eco fund together with the largest Japanese companies such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Honda and many more, this way; the government can easily work together and partner up as far as sustainable development is concerned.
Additionally, the country has been able to launch a number of SD initiatives including the famous Green charter which was formed back in 1999; with the help of the government the Charter has brought together many major stakeholders on sustainable development in Japan and make Sustainable development efforts more successful (Friedman 2003; Brown 2002)
Consequently, businesses also have a very big role to play they are expected to initiate corporate strategies that are in line not only with government policies but international SD policies which are set by bodies such as BCSD in order to ensure that the SD concerns are part of their corporate strategies (Markandya 2002).
In Japan for example, companies operate within a corporate responsibility charter, Japanese companies have understood and accepted that all elements of the triple bottom line are important therefore, they apply a lot of effort ensure social and environmental aspects of business are well taken care of.
Mitsubishi is one of Japans largest companies with operations in over 90 countries and over 500 companies under its group (Desjardins 2007). The company is among the leading in SD efforts and has put in place Conservation of ecosystems and wildlife programs that will ensure that living organisms are protected and that their business activities do not harm fauna and flora (Fitzmaurice 2009).
The company also funds education and research in ecology and conservation in numerous parts of the world advocating for SD. Moreover the company is funding numerous scientists to research in the field of Global warming and alternative energy sources so that the pollution levels can be cut down around the globe (Cherp, George & Kirkpatrick 2004).
Xerox is a company that has become a sustainable company due to the fact that they use a technique known as greening the supply chain, this technique allows the company to manufacture more friendly and efficient products such as printers and copiers which are made of 100% recyclable materials additionally the company uses upstream and downstream supply chain movement to recall old parts of their machines and replace them for their clients with newer more biodegradable parts and inks (Hiles 2010).
This practice has enabled the company be able to lessen the demand of fresh raw materials directly from nature, this move is a clear move indicating environmental and societal concern that Xerox has put in place in their CSR charter (Goldstein 2009).
It is both the duty of the government and businesses to ensure that the efforts of sustainable development succeed and that future generations are able to exist in the presence of enough natural resources and a healthier society.
The outcomes of decisions made by businesses and the strategies they employ are being examined more closely than they were in the past with the aim of ensuring that sustainable business becomes a reality and that the future of next generations are well secured.
The government should thus be in the forefront in setting strategies and policies and also coming up with realistic timelines, and offer the proper control and supervise businesses to make sure that SD is a key part of business.
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