“Sustainable” is not sustainable: recovering ESG

The word “sustainable” is multiplying at an exponential rate, soon it will be in everyA “fenntartható” nem fenntartható: az ESG talpraállítása sentence, even more than once. However, if it disappeared from everywhere it is used to mean a wooden iron ring, it would barely remain. What is usually meant by “sustainability” is that we can keep on doing what we are doing as long as we like. And what our civilisation is doing is unsustainable, (self-)destructive

Therefore, to talk about sustainability in a narrow-minded and short-term way is contrary to the meaning of the word. For example, a project is “sustainable” if its activities can continue after the grant has ended. Population is ‘sustainable’ if there is no population decline. Financial “sustainability” means only the resources to cover expenditure. Moreover, social, economic, etc. sustainability cannot be placed alongside ecological sustainability, since it is ecology that will make or break them.

Sustainability without quotation marks is long-term and systems thinking. E.g. it takes into account if expenditure is partly covered by a legacy that is dwindling. Or part of the income is provided by arable land on which the soil is thinning, etc.
Since the present civilisation is unsustainable (i.e. destroying its very foundations), sustainability without quotation marks can only mean, correctly, that we cannot continue in the present way, but must turn in the opposite direction. But how can sustainability be measured? What shows the right direction?

1.Definition of sustainability: ecological footprint is less than biocapacity

For decades, the calculation of ecological footprints (environmental pressures) and biocapacity (carrying capacity) has been improving, backed by a vast international scientific network. Both are expressed in global hectares (gha, the carrying capacity of an average hectare), so they are easily comparable.
In particular, the website https://data.footprintnetwork.org/#/ compares countries’ ecological footprints and biocapacities since 1960 on an annual graph, divided by population per capita. You can see how, over time, more and more countries are becoming unsustainable, with an ecological footprint (the red line) that already exceeds (often by several times) their biocapacity (the green line).
Mankind as a whole exceeded the Earth’s carrying capacity in 1970 and is now nearly double that. The graph shows that the ecological footprint per capita has not increased for decades, and the red line is no higher today than it was in 1970. Thus, the overshoot is essentially caused solely by the population explosion, with more and more people sharing the Earth’s carrying capacity. The green line is sinking due to the population explosion, with less per capita. It’s not overconsumption, it’s overcrowding.


"Sustainable" is not sustainable: recovering ESG
How is it possible to consume more than is available? Biocapacity is the annual yield of an ecosystem that can be consumed in such a way that it can be produced again. An ecological footprint larger than this consumes the ‘capital’ or ‘heritage’ accumulated over millions of years: forests, soils, water, wildlife are destroyed, the climate is disrupted, toxins and plastics are dispersed…

2.The carbon footprint is the largest and most manageable part of the ecological footprint

The ecological footprint of cities, companies, products, events, travel, websites, etc. can be calculated, but reliable data sets for calculating biocapacity are more likely to be available only per country. Therefore, on a smaller scale, carbon footprint calculations are more common, e.g. with a calculator like this: https://bocs.eu/karbonlabnyom-szenlabnyom-kalkulator/
The carbon footprint measures greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. CO2 emissions are more important in industrialised countries, methane etc. (livestock, fertiliser, rice paddies etc.) in poorer countries. The carbon footprint accounts for more than half of the ecological footprint, so carbon neutrality is a crucial part of sustainability.
The carbon footprint can be easily calculated for small things, companies, products, events, travel, communication. And there is no need to bother calculating their biocapacity and comparing them. Simply zero the carbon footprint by reducing it and offsetting the rest.
Only that which has an ecological footprint smaller than the available biocapacity is sustainable – and whose carbon footprint is partly neutralised.
We could say that only development that improves quality of life and reduces the ecological footprint, including neutralising the carbon footprint, is the only way to go! And since infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet, especially if we are already almost doubly overburdened, to use the term “sustainable growth” is ignorant or fraudulent

3.The ESG on its base resembles a cake

The three elements of ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) are not side by side, they are not equal. Society is a subsystem of the ecosystem, the economy is a subsystem of society, the financial world is a subsystem of the economy, governance (at least in the profit orientation trap) is a subsystem of the financial world, and this limits its scope.
So ESG is not three letters side by side, but is upside down on its base. On the base of the E (Environment, Ecosystem) stands or falls the fate of Society. And Governance cannot be a mere icing on the cake, but must take over from above. It must break free from the short-termism of narrow profit orientation, to redirect the currently destructive economy and financial system towards a sustainable direction, rather than serving it.

"Sustainable" is not sustainable: recovering ESG

Source : https://fenntarthato.bocs.eu/

This hierarchy holds in the longer term. In the short term, the temporary abundance of fossil fuels has overpopulated humanity, making living energy very cheap and thus making overconsumption affordable. The costs can be externalised for a time, passed on to the poor, women, children, the living world and future children. At the level of governance, it is barely felt for a short time that the earth has been overconsumed for the last half century, grossly overconsumed by humanity.

4.Governance for sustainability instead of destructive profit

So-called “donut economics” goes beyond narrow economic and financial thinking. It shows social deficits in the inner circle and ecological excesses in the outer circle. Governance is caught between social demands (Social) and ecological constraints (Environment). The ecological ceiling should not be exceeded, but at least two thirds of the 9 vital areas are already severely degraded.

"Sustainable" is not sustainable: recovering ESG

Source: https://medium.com/@PeterManthos/doughnut-economics-in-amsterdam-77a34da95434

Profit-driven governance does not even deserve the name Governance, as it is just a puppet of the money system. Even the now obsolete CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has difficulty in extracting resources from it for social good. Moreover, this S without an S, CSR that serves social demands often does more harm than good: it achieves small and large social improvements often with a damagingly large increase in its ecological footprint. For example, what we do for children now often has an eco-burden that disproportionately exacerbates the hardships they will face later.
Governance should therefore not be about management pandering to the unsustainable demands of employees, customers, clients, owners, etc. It must look beyond them to alleviate their impending suffering, the ecological crisis. Therefore, the first task of management is to train management and all stakeholders in sustainability.

ESG already puts the ecosystem at least first. And the EU’s concretisation of ESG, the CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive), although similar to CSR as an acronym, is the opposite: S without E, i.e. it correctly subordinates everything to sustainability.

5.Can social demands be reconciled with environmental constraints?

As the ecological footprint calculation shows, the Earth has been overburdened by overpopulation. We don’t hear much about this because, as Sir David Attenborough puts it in the BBC film How many people can the Earth support? Fortunately, overpopulation is not caused by people wanting to have lots of children, but by women’s lack of opportunities to learn, work and use contraception. The UN estimates that every second, around 4 women realise in despair that they have become pregnant against their will. Hundreds of thousands of children are born every day to parents who did not want them.

So you don’t have to be an ascetic to alleviate the ecological crisis. It is enough to be compassionate, to help girls and women who are deprived of education and contraception. The other big problem, overconsumption and waste, is also limited precisely by slowing and reversing the population explosion. In China, for example, population decline has already started, and not as a result of the one-child policy, as fertility rates had already fallen a decade earlier. As soon as there is no oversupply of labour, wages rise, overconsumption becomes increasingly unaffordable. No more cheap Chinese dumping, only Africa is exploding.
Contraception is the magic wand that can untangle the tension between the three areas of the ESG. Numerous scientific studies support that

1. contraception is a human right (UN, 1968)

2. the most effective climate protection

3. the most effective protection of the environment and nature

4. the key to lifting people out of poverty

5. key to empowering women and educating girls

6. key to reducing maternal and infant mortality

7. key to the physical and mental health of future children

8. reducing the risk of epidemics

9. mitigates conflict, migration and violence, and strengthens peace and public security.

Carbon neutrality in the environment is the main thing to do: what can be reduced, the rest offset by carbon credits. Fortunately, there is also a carbon credit that prevents GHG emissions by helping people without contraception and avoiding accidental deaths: the Quality Family Planning Credit (QFPC). The figure below shows the beneficial effects of some different carbon credits on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). QFPC is the best multisocial carbon credit, so it is useful in all three areas of ESG.





Source : https://ouroffset.com/karbon-piac/

In the Social area, we have to be very careful not to make a big ecoteher to do some small good. As the ecological crisis worsens and environmental awareness grows, image improvement can backfire.

In the governance field, managers need to train hard to navigate a rapidly deteriorating global crisis. Those who only make their companies profitable may soon regret having done so with serious ecological consequences. The key is training for sustainability: preparing employees, customers, suppliers, owners, all stakeholders for a rapidly worsening ecological crisis.

A better understanding of a rapidly changing world gives the power to enforce the Environment against the pressure of money: it enables wiser, better decisions in all three areas of ESG.

Gyula I. Simonyi
President, BOCS Civilisation Design Foundation

Published on:https://www.zipmagazin.hu/a-fenntarthato-nem-fenntarthato-az-esg-talpraallitasa

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