Environmental sustainability is a critical concept that has been talked about in just about every field. In addition to environmental sustainability, ethical responsibility has also gained a broad level of support in the same fields as they both are intrinsically linked with each other.
However, as important as both may be, they are much harder to put into practice due to how complex the concepts are and the sheer enormity of the change in thinking and belief that will be required to ensure changes are long-lasting.
One of the most challenging aspects of environmental sustainability is developing the technology that will make it possible on a worldwide scale.
Implementing the technology needed for change also brings up the topic of ethical responsibility. While it may be true that making such changes can benefit the environment, there are also negative consequences to human health and commerce that must be considered.
Today we will touch on the role ethical responsibility has in the realm of environmental sustainability.
We will also briefly touch on the ethical challenges faced by architects, engineers, builders, social scientists, and others working towards environmental sustainability.
Table of Contents
What is Ethical Responsibility?
Ethics refers to the cause and effects of action. Simply put, considering what effect your actions will have on a person, place, or thing both now and in the future. In terms of commerce, governing, and business, the premise of ethical responsibility is to be aware of how every decision will affect those around them both locally and globally.
It is important to prevent waste or destruction, suffering, and unjustified harm for both the short and long term. On a personal level, it is also important to practice ethical responsibility, though the repercussions are much smaller and localized.
The importance of ethical responsibility in every aspect of life cannot be understated.
For businesses, it is important to note that both actions and decisions made may negatively affect the people around them and even the environment.
In governances, those same applies, but not only can decisions have a negative effect, but they also have the ability to change the way people think and work to reduce negative effects through ethical regulation. Ethical governance can help reduce or even prevent harm to the environment as well as the population as a whole.
Ethical responsibility is evident in all parts of society. To employees, a company is ethically tasked with caring for their wellbeing while on the job and ensuring they have a good work environment that supports their success.
After all, when an employee is well cared for and given a healthy environment to work in, the company will thrive.
In turn, that employee is able to go home and use the benefits of his or her labor to provide for their family and also their local community.
A company that is following its ethical responsibility will ensure that its workers are paid a living wage and given a workplace that is safe. This, in turn, further benefits both the company and even the environment by reducing the demand for extra services and raw goods.
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What is Environmental Sustainability?
Ethical responsibility plays a big role in environmental sustainability which we will cover a bit later. Before understanding how ethics ties into environmental issues, it is important to know and understand the actual meaning of environmental sustainability.
Sustainability is the efficient management of your resources. It can relate to finances, food safety, and of course, the environment, among other things. Environmental sustainability refers to the preservation of one’s local environment and wilderness including natural food sources, wildlife, energy sources, water, and more.
Complete human non-interference is not possible, so the next best thing is for humans to apply ethics in consumption so that the integrity of the environment is maintained in a healthy balance.
The importance of environmental sustainability is important for the future of humanity. If humans consume all of the natural resources faster than they are replaced, eventually scarcity will ensue.
Not only will this result in fewer resources for humans, but it will also rob the earth, wildlife, and the ecosystem of the essentials needed to survive. If the land cannot replenish itself, then humans will eventually go extinct as a result. While this may seem doom and gloom, overconsumption is already a very real problem.
Finite fossil fuels are just one example of how consumption is outpacing production.
There is a very limited amount of fuel, and it takes thousands of years to replenish, however, the rate of human expansion is far greater than the earth’s ability to produce such fuels. This is one of the reasons that worldwide there has been a shift away from a dependence on finite resources to those that are renewable.
Sustainability requires well-managed use and respect for the environment.
Every person and even every community has a different way of living. It is up to each community and community member to live in a way that is environmentally friendly to ensure the continuation of the species down the line.
In business and governance, it is ethically inherent that policies must be put in place that forces companies, industries, and even regular people to conserve resources and operate in a manner that is ethically responsible and environmentally sustainable.
This covers a range of environmental issues such as water pollution and conservation, air pollution and air quality control, food safety, and even efficient waste management.
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How Do Ethics Play a Role in Environmental Sustainability?
Now we get to the point, which is how ethics play a role in environmental sustainability.
There are a few main variants when it comes to the ethics of sustainability, which have been contented all through history. Ethical land use, ethical use of resources, and the ethical management of pollution and waste are some of the main issues that are covered under environmental sustainability.
People, companies, communities, and governments have an ethical responsibility to the planet to moderate and properly allocate the use of existing resources. Pollution is one of the biggest problems we face as a species which affects not only us but also has a dramatic effect on wildlife and plant life worldwide.
Ethics are important in terms of pollution control because when businesses and people care about how their usage affects the environment, then they will take care to shape the ethics of their business policies around sustainability.
When you are doing business be it at the industrial level or the retail level, there is no way to avoid at least some form of resource depletion. Land use is also unavoidable in both agriculture and in residential areas.
Ethical responsibility comes into play when those activities are performed without a thought towards how they impact local wildlife and the local ecosystem in general.
While most local ecosystems are generally self-contained, the planet as a whole is connected.
When there is a high concentration of resource depletion and creation of pollution in one area, it will have a negative effect on the planet.
Environmentally irresponsible governance, business, industrial, and even consumer practices have led to communities being poised, robbed of vital resources, and even has resulted in the extinction of some plant, animal, and insect species.
Environmental sustainability when paired with ethical responsibility can help prevent and in some cases reverse the damage caused by bossiness and human habitation. When it comes to environmental sustainability and how ethics play a role, politics and governance are closely involved.
This is mainly due to the limits that will be placed on business, commerce, infrastructure, and general development that can hamper other programs that may have been put forth in decades past.
Economic growth is an important part of life. It helps to build wealth and also supports the advancement of technology. However, growth at the expense of the community or the environment is not only unethical, it is also not sustainable.
When companies and governments take an interest in the long-term success of their communities, they will be better equipped to make ethical decisions that will support economic growth that causes minimal or no harm to the environment.
It is important for companies of all sizes to learn how to find a healthy balance between profits and protecting the environment in a way that will allow future generations to thrive.
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Living Sustainably & Ethically To Protect The Environment
The two concepts of sustainability and ethical responsibility are closely linked. Understanding and also accepting that we are only on a planet for a short is the first step towards living ethically.
As humans, we have an ethical and moral responsibility to take care of our communities and our planet so that those who come after us will have livable earth to inherit.
Being greedy, exploiting people around us and even the natural resources, and living in a way that is self-serving is not only ethically wrong, it’s also morally bankrupt.
This will place the lives of our children and their future generations at great risk.
For several decades the human population has been consuming and using more than twice the amount of what the planet can actually handle. In fact, humans have had a more profound effect on the environment in the last 80 years than in the preceding 40 million years.
While it may be hard to believe, the facts are clear, and those facts also prove that our current way of living is not sustainable. Sustainable & ethical living, commerce, and industry are possible if everyone works towards decreasing their overall environmental impact.
A well-rounded, ethical, and sustainable lifestyle has to take the bigger picture into account. Reducing one’s impact is actually much easier than you may think.
Reducing the amount of meat you consume is one way to start living sustainably. When people eat less meat, the effect trickles up in a massive way. There will be less of a demand for meat which means fewer demands on agricultural services that are used in the raising of cattle.
This will reduce greenhouse emissions and also lower the amount of fuel and energy used to process that meat. Composting is another way to live in a way that helps to restore and sustain the environment. Many big companies are composting their waste and using it to fertilize the land in addition to reducing their carbon footprint. This helps to get rid of waste and also helps the land become enriched enough for future planting.
Companies can also produce more sustainable packaging by cutting down on the amount of plastic they use for each item. Even in the realm of industry and manufacturing, reducing excess packaging and producing items to order instead of on a wider scale will help lower the demand on the earth’s finite resources.
On the consumer level, not buying single-use plastic packaging will also force companies to change their policies to become more eco-conscious.
Transportation is a big part of the pollution problem, as consumers we can combine our trips to reduce the amount of fuel we consume on a daily basis.
Companies can work towards lowering emissions by changing their transportation and shipping practices to those that are more in line with ethical and environmental sustainability.
All of these efforts will help keep the planet healthy so that future generations will have a lush, resource-rich environment to enjoy.