The crisis triggered by the coronavirus has reminded us of an essential truth: we are vulnerable. However much ingenuity, resilience, courage humanity has, a microorganism has put it in serious difficulty by radically changing the context, and taking away many lives with it.
We are still in the midst of the storm, but in recent months we have learned a few things. They can help us build a better and safer long-term future for each of us.
3 more weeks of world resources
The global pandemic has reduced our Ecological Footprint by almost 10%, mainly due to the reduction in travel and the slowdown in construction activities. A massive impact that, according to the calculations of Global Footprint Network,Mathis Wackernagel, founder and president of Global Footprint Network
has brought Earth Overshoot Day forward by three weeks compared to 2019, the day when humanity begins to consume more resources than the Earth is able to regenerate within a year.A "progress" forced by a global tragedy, very different from the carefully planned transformation we must implement to create a sustainable future.
We can take advantage of some very important lessons this situation has given us. In primo luogo, we have clearly understood that ignoring the ecological context in which we live is a huge risk to the survival and success of all. Secondly, that we are essentially one living organism, and our fates are intertwined. Finally, that humanity can reverse the direction of the increasing consumption of resources.
While all our attention and efforts are aimed at recovering after the crisis, this is our opportunity to make our economies compatible with the resources our one Planet can offer. How can it be done? By putting the regeneration of resources, the defense of biodiversity, circularity and the fight against climate change at the center of all decision-making processes.
We will only be able to get up and build a better long-term future if we recognize the limits of our planet
We have an unprecedented chance: changing the shape of our economy and society to make them more resilient, inclusive, collaborative and able to thrive sustainably. We need to make sure we create infrastructures and economic systems that use resources far more efficiently than before, so da being able to grow by exploiting only what the Earth is able to give us. Nothing less than this can lead us towards the future that all of us, and especially the younger ones, want.
To give an example, we know that the levels of greenhouse gas emissions have been closely related to human and industrial activities. Travel, transport, production, consumption practices, energy generation. We need to break this correlation, and digitization in this sense is an essential tool at our disposal. With the right digital tools, data can be used in new ways that lead to better decisions, more efficient use of resources and better long-term results.
Let's take the buildings. A digitized building (newly built or redeveloped, it's the same) can consume much less energy, be much more resilient to adapt to changes in scenery and use, and also become much more comfortable for those occupying it. The key to achieving this are the possibilities offered by digital. Remotely monitor and manage the building operationally, implement predictive and preventive maintenance, design systems and infrastructures in an innovative way.
Today, for a business model to be successful, it is evident that it must also be designed to enable humanity's long-term success. If it does not, the risk is that it will quickly become obsolete. A good example are circular business models, which produce value and at the same time ensure that products, components, materials are exploited to the maximum of their usefulness and capacity, always.
Success for humanity is defined, simply, as the ability to prosper all while remaining within the ecological means of our planet. A concept called "one-planet prosperity".
The path to this goal can be measured. We can understand if everyone can enjoy the benefits of growth through
United Nations Human Development Index. The level at which we are able to operate while respecting the limits of the Earth's resources can instead be traced with the Ecological Footprint. By combining both, it is possible to define a safe and fair operating space, which really allows us not to “exceed the ecological budget”.
The companies that will be able to help their customers to enter this space more and more will be the ones we will need even more in the long term.
It is for this reason that Schneider Electric's strategy is based on the ability to design an innovation that can win a double challenge. That of improving the well-being and resilience of humanity, while at the same time reducing our dependence on the planet's resources. A strategy based on a double commitment: digitalisation and decarbonisation. Actions aimed at obtaining more safety and quality of life, more respect from environmental resources through deliberate choices that lead to a significant increase in the ability to obtain efficiency and circularity. Our focus is on maximizing decarbonisation opportunities for and with our customers. Customers who build and manage buildings around the world, operate in industry, in the data center sector, in infrastructure.Olivier Blum, Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer of Schneider Electric
Prosperity with the resources we have
This is what it means to pursue prosperity within the limit of the planet's resources. It is not a question of aspiring to do well and at the same time “do good”. It is a question of interpreting these choices as necessary if you want to continue to be successful as a business in a world that faces climate change, the reduction of biodiversity and the reduction of available resources.
With this spirit we will be able to overcome the crisis that COVID-19 has caused. We will be able to arrive at a future designed from the beginning to guarantee resilience and work for all. It is essential that the conversation on sustainability issues changes, ceasing to consider it a “noble effort” and instead declaring it fundamentally necessary. If we do, this will help us to make a prosperous future flourish within the means of our planet. It is the most feasible strategy we have now.
And in the long run it is certainly better than a future of insecurity on the only planet we have.
The authors of the post
Olivier Blum, Chief Strategy & Sustainability Officer of Schneider Electric.
Mathis Wackernagel, founder and president of Global Footprint Network.