A Sustainable Environment: Our Obligation to Protect God’s Gift
by George P. Nassos
How to Minimize Environmental Degradation before It’s Too Late
During February 2022, we have had the opportunity to watch on TV a major event that occurs every four years, the Winter Olympic Games. Athletes representing countries throughout the world compete with each other to determine the ranking of the athletes in each event. Some are evaluated objectively and some subjectively while attempting to receive gold, silver or bronze medals for coming in first, second or third place. At the end of the two weeks of competition, the participating countries are then ranked by the number of medals each country has been awarded. This leads to a ranking as to how good each country is in winter sporting events.
There are many other ways to rank a country’s performance depending on what is important. What about mitigating global warming? How are the various countries doing in this all-important environmental issue? There is a Climate Change Performance Index (www.ccpi.org) which was designed by the environmental and development organization called Germanwatch e.V. It evaluates and compares the climate protection performance of 63 countries and the European Union which together are responsible for over 90% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Based on 14 indicators they look at each country’s performance in four categories with weight factors: quantity of GHG emissions (40%), renewable energy generation (20%), energy use (20%) and climate policy (20%) which is evaluated based on implementing policies to achieve its Paris Agreement goals. The CCPI has awarded the highest ranks to Denmark at number 4, Sweden at 5 and Norway at 6 as it believes that no country is worthy of 1, 2 or 3.
The two countries that represent about 50% of the global emissions, China and the United States, are ranked 38 and 55, respectively. The overall weighted score for China is 52.2% with its strongest factor of the four being climate policy at 78.5% and its weakest factor being energy use at 38.1%. The overall weighted score for the U.S. is 37.4% with its strongest factor being climate policy at 50.5% and its weakest factor being renewable energy at 16.0%. Based on the CCPI assessment, China is doing more to mitigate global warming than the U.S. Why?
One reason for this difference between the two countries may be that China is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which is the founding and sole ruling party of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The CCP determines what is good for its country and rules accordingly. For example, it has moved most of its population from rural areas to urban areas. In 1980, only 19% of its population lived in urban areas but just 40 years later, 65% of the population is in urban areas. On the other hand, here in the U.S. it seems that our ruling political parties are affording greater effort in opposing each other rather than implementing programs to benefit its citizens and climate change. And here are some numbers to provide a better understanding of the different results. In terms of carbon emissions per capita, China emits 10.1 tons per year while the U.S. emits 17.6 tons per year, with part of the difference due to the different life-styles. Considering electric vehicles, 44% of the world total of EVs are in China while 17% are in the U.S. with the population difference contributing to these numbers. However, if you look at electric buses, the U.S. has about 650 while China operates over 400,000. One city in China, Shenzhen, has 16,000 electric buses and 12,000 electric taxis. Despite these numbers for China, it is still ranked 38th in terms of climate change performance.
If the U.S. government cannot take the lead to fight climate change and other environmental issues, the businesses and the citizens must assume a greater role. In order for this to happen, education of business leaders and individual citizens becomes more important than ever. Current business management must have a good understanding of sustainability strategies that should be implemented in their business. Hiring a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) or equivalent title is a good start, but the companies must go beyond that. Department managers and their subordinates must also be trained so they can all work together to achieve corporate sustainability goals. One way of accomplishing this is to offer in-house training courses for as many employees as necessary to implement sustainability strategies that will provide the company with a competitive advantage without having a negative impact on the environment.
For future corporate managers which obtain their training at business schools, it is important that sustainability be embedded in all programs. Whether someone is seeking a degree in accounting, finance, operations management, entrepreneurship, or any other program, courses in sustainability should be part of the curriculum in every program. Environmental sustainability should not be a separate business school discipline but, rather, should be considered a concept that is embedded in all the programs. In this manner, every student completing a program at a business school will have a good understanding of sustainability and will be able to implement it in the corporate world. The students will also be inclined to adopt similar strategies in their everyday life.
Within the next decade or two, implementing the above corporate, education and training sustainability initiatives should result in:
- everyone operating at work or at home more efficiently and with an improvement in our environment.
- electing government officials that are more concerned with the environment.
These are some of the key steps to minimize environmental degradation before it is too late so that we can hand-off an acceptable environment for the future generations.