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Written by the student association Lighthouse - Corporate Sustainability – Leonida Fini Zarri (Head of Consulting)

Corporate Sustainability
We exist to accelerate the future into being

Today humankind is putting the planet’s ecosystem under unprecedented pressure. Although this may not look like good news, this environmental crisis offers us the challenge to redefine not only our habits, but also our ideals, values, and principles as human beings.

We are the first generation that is aware of the fact that compromising Earth’s stability to support human development is no longer sustainable. Scientific research of the last decades gave us the awareness that we are approaching a point of no return and that linear, exploiting, efficiency-based business practices are no longer an option.

We are approaching a crisis that could lead to an undesired, if not catastrophic change in human development. Is it possible to identify a threshold? A point break where it would be impossible to go back? In 2009 the Stockholm Resilience Centre, a non-profit research organisation, published in Nature a study that identified nine different Earth business processes or “planetary boundaries” that would define the threshold not to cross. These boundaries give humankind a quantified idea of their operating space in each area, and if crossed, they could affect the planet’s ability to sustain life.

These boundaries are:

  • Ocean acidification
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion
  • Biodiversity loss and extinction
  • Chemical pollution
  • Climate change
  • Global hydrological cycle
  • Land system change
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus flows to biosphere and ocean
  • Atmospheric aerosol loading

Further studies show that four out of nine boundaries have been crossed.

Planetary Boundaries Graph by the Stockholm-Resilience Centre

Planetary Boundaries Graph by the Stockholm Resilience Centre
Ref. stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries.html

A change in politics and business practices
is not an option, but rather a must.

We urgently need to update our current governance and management paradigm, shifting to a flexible and adaptive approach where the companies consider the environment and the social system as leading stakeholders.

In order to survive, companies will have to invest in transformation capabilities, allowing them to move from crisis to innovation. Being confronted with the challenge of transforming our approach to business, will encourage us to develop new processes, technologies and practices that can help us shape a new future.

Until the last decade, businesses have thought about sustainability problems as economic externalities which would fall under the governments' responsibility. Even though Governmental institutions will, in fact, play a major role in regulating sustainable practices, some businesses are finding themselves compelled to take the leadership to deal with a host of sustainability issues.

We are entering one of the most challenging and exciting moments in the history of humanity, where new businesses and startups will have the chance to emerge and make a change. Integrating new ideas with sustainable business practices will have an increasing importance in tomorrow’s corporate world. A series of new business leaders and entrepreneurs have already started taking on crucial challenges. Some of them, such as Jochen Zeitz, Paul Polman, Ian Cheshire and Richard Brenson, demonstrate that a sustainable approach to business is compatible with profitability. A new focus on renewable energy, FoodTech, circular economy, social inclusion, sustainable agriculture, recycling, mobility and sustainable investments is leading us to a new geological era, facing one of the largest transformative development since industrialisation.

Lighthouse - Corporate Sustainability
A student association

It is in this context and with these ideals in mind that a group of ESCP Europe students has founded Lighthouse - Corporate Sustainability

Lighthouse - Corporate Sustainability is a non-profit association with the mission to raise awareness about corporate sustainability practices in the academic and business community. Lighthouse also offers consulting services to SMEs, proposing new ways to respond to the challenges of a changing planet.

We strongly believe that with collaboration, persistence and commitment, we can play a role in achieving a prosperous future in an economic environment which is able to create value, while building resilience on a finite planet.

Leonida Fini Zarri
Lighthouse - Head of Consulting

Lighthouse - Corporate Sustainability logo | Student association | ESCP Business School

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