Whether economic, social or environmental, the issues raised by sustainable development are many and varied. The first step before embarking on a sustainable development process is to understand all the challenges. Acquiring a 360° vision of the challenges is essential to identify the best courses of action.
1st challenge: Preserving the environment
Natural resources are not infinite. The fauna, flora, water, air and soil, which are essential to our survival, are being degraded. This observation of scarcity and finitude of natural resources translates into the need to protect these great ecological balances in order to preserve our societies and life on Earth. Among the main environmental issues, the following themes have been identified:
Saving and preserving natural resources:
- Making optimal and efficient use of natural resources,
- Take care to limit waste (energy, water, materials, food…),
- Favour the use of renewable resources (animal, vegetable, mining, energy, etc.) and recyclable materials.
Protect biodiversity, i.e. maintain the variety of animal and plant species to preserve ecosystems :
- Save threatened or endangered species,
- Integrate old or rare varieties,
- Avoid GMO products, favour products from organic, biodynamic and reasoned agriculture.
Avoid CO2 emissions to fight against climate change:
- Optimising transport (people, services, material goods),
- Choosing local services and goods,
- Promote the use of seasonal products and plant species.
Manage and recycle waste:
- Limit consumption to the necessary quantities,
- Promote the sorting, recycling and recovery of waste,
- Integrate these issues into its responsible purchasing policy: analysis of product life cycles, selection of recycled products, etc.
2nd challenge: Fostering social cohesion
It is our society’s ability to ensure the well-being of all its citizens. This well-being means the possibility for everyone, whatever their standard of living, to have access to basic needs: food, housing, health, equal access to work, security, education, human rights, culture and heritage, and so on. Among the main social issues, the following themes have been identified:
Combating exclusion and discrimination, i.e. respecting and protecting the weakest people (disabled, elderly, minorities, etc.), giving access to social rights for all:
Establish an advanced social policy: guarantee good working conditions, promote training, interest employees…
To set up a reintegration assistance policy (professional and/or personal),
Develop targeted projects to limit disparities: equality between men and women, levelling of salaries, accessibility for all…
Fostering solidarity :
- Contribute to the reduction of social inequalities through collaboration with local or international associations and/or projects,
- Select fair trade products (north-south and north-north), i.e. guarantee a minimum income that covers the farmer’s real costs and salary,
- Develop relationships with specific actors (local authorities, associations, suppliers…), local or international, in order to improve certain common features. E.g.: the employees of a hotel donate their working time to give support courses.
Contributing to well-being :
- Developing social dialogue and feedback between our partners, suppliers, customers and employees,
- Take into account the specificities of each person, as an employee and/or customer: accessibility for people with reduced mobility, timetables for young mothers/fathers, establishment of a mobility policy…
- Propose actions that have a positive impact on the people concerned: relaxation, cohesion, contact with nature, facilitated exchanges, etc.
Enhancing the value of territories :
- Promote local products and know-how,
- To preserve, share and disseminate local heritage: cultural and natural, including traditions, languages, customs and arts in all their forms.
3rd challenge: Promoting a responsible economy
It is a question of reconciling the viability of a project, an organization (economic performance) with ethical principles, such as the protection of the environment and the preservation of social ties. According to this system, the price of goods and services must reflect the environmental and social cost of their entire life cycle, i.e. from resource extraction to recovery, taking into account manufacturing, distribution and use.
The challenges of a responsible economy are numerous, often linked to one or both of the other two pillars of sustainable development, environmental and social. Here are some of the avenues identified:
- Developing innovative and ethical business practices to better distribute profits and wealth. E.g.: fair trade, micro-credit, micro-donations,
- Distribute wealth and profits more fairly,
- Integrate social and environmental costs into the price of products,
- Seek to develop the local economic fabric.
Use alternative methods:
- Circular economy: reduce, recover, recycle, repair instead of producing.
- Economy of functionality: paying for a service or for the use of a good instead of the good itself. E.g.: car-sharing, collective housing, renting of tyres per kilometre travelled, sale of the use of photocopiers and their services…
- Collaborative consumption or sharing economy, based on the principle of mutualisation of resources (skills, time, money, goods) through new forms of exchange between individuals (sharing, barter, exchange, rental) as well as new collaborative lifestyles (crowdfunding, coworking, colunching, etc.).