Simply Sustainable

Earth Overshoot Day: the need for new ways of doing business

By current consumption levels, we would need 1.7 Earths to sustain us.

Research by international organisation Global Footprint Network has found that humanity has consumed a year’s worth of resources in a record 212 days. Earth Overshoot Day, which marks the point at which humanity’s consumption exceeds the capacity of nature to regenerate, has moved forward two days to 1st August – the earliest date ever recorded.

The cost of this ecological overspending is becoming increasingly evident around the world, with extreme weather events and extinction of species becoming more and more commonplace. Present record summer temperatures here in the UK, for instance, are very worrying and follow in the trend of the last three hottest years ever on record. Across the globe, we are seeing similar extreme events – from flooding in Hiroshima Japan to raging wildfires above the Arctic Circle in Sweden.

Business has an important role to play in reversing this trend. The economic system we operate in is unsustainable – it isn’t regenerative or redistributive, and current business models are clearly not working to ameliorate the situation. If we are to make genuine progress we need a novel way of doing business, and new business models will be critical in driving a more sustainable future.

Take the circular economy model for example. Looking beyond the current “take, make and dispose of” extractive linear model, the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. By redefining products and services to design waste out and minimise negative impacts, the circular economy represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and social benefits.

This notion of circularity has already been put into practice across the business, and with encouraging results both for business and society: the model not only minimises negative impacts of waste, but it also drives savings from a closed-loop system. And we are seeing examples of new business models disrupting almost every sector, from the online streaming platform Netflix, to shared-mobility providers such as Zipcar.

Only by embracing new, regenerative business models such as these – and doing so quickly – will we successfully reach a world where we no longer exceed nature’s natural capacity.


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