Shannon Bergstrom discusses the impact the zero waste movement is having on the sustainable finance sector. Are more companies adopting sustainable practices in response to environmental and consumer demand?
In recent years, the topic of waste and its impact on the environment has started garnering more interest. It’s high time it did, too — we’ve been dumping 2.12 billion tons of waste each year. All this discarded material either ends up choking our oceans or slowly decomposes in landfills, releasing toxic and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Once we’ve become aware of the ecological disaster hanging over our heads, we’ve started looking for ways to prevent it. The most promising solution we’ve come up with is the zero waste movement. This movement asks us to reexamine our practices, including our investing habits and the financial sector’s sustainability.
But before we get into that, we should understand what the zero waste movement actually is. So, let’s take a closer look.
What is the zero waste movement?
As the name itself implies, the movement is driven by proponents of zero waste aiming and advocating to do away with waste entirely. And how can it possibly achieve that? Well, by introducing the concept of circularity.
The economy we live in today is largely linear. A company makes a product; consumers buy it, use it as long as they can or want to, and eventually discard it. Afterwards, the discarded product ends up in a landfill, and its life cycle is complete — now, all that’s left for it is to slowly decompose. In the meantime, consumers buy something new, and the whole process starts again.
This sort of approach is what we’re all used to, but it’s not sustainable in the long run. It leads to waste accumulation, fast resource consumption, and discarding materials that could still be useful. In other words, it’s detrimental to our planet.
Circularity is there to solve all these problems. It introduces new practices and strategies that should entirely eliminate waste. So, instead of throwing used up products away, we should repair, repurpose, and recycle them. By doing so, we can use them again, or at least create new materials for a different product.
To put it simply, single-use items and non-recyclable materials have no place in the circular economy and zero waste movement. Both consumers and product designers need to be aware of that and put their best effort into adhering to the principles of circularity.
How the goal towards zero waste is impacting finance
As committed as consumers may be to reducing waste and practising sustainability, they can’t get far without involving the financial sector. After all, companies and corporations are in charge of manufacturing different products, and as such, they need to be environmentally conscious first. Once they start designing their products with zero waste in mind, consumers will have an easier time recycling and repurposing.
Unfortunately, the financial sector isn’t famous for its care for environmental concerns. Eco-friendly practices often take time to implement and cost more, and if the financial sector loves anything, it’s maximum profit for minimum effort. Without some external push, it’s unlikely to change drastically.
Luckily, the financial sector has quite an incentive to reexamine its practices. Nowadays, investors are taking more interest in the environmental impact of the companies they are investing in. That is why many businesses are starting to update their strategies and become more eco-friendly, in order to keep their reputations, investors, and customers. And thanks to that, the ESG standard came to be.
What Is ESG?
ESG is short for Environmental, Social, and Governance, and it’s a concept that has become popular in finance in recent years. It refers to responsible, conscientious investing that invites investors to carefully examine the companies they are supporting. If they follow the ESG standard, then they deserve a reward in the form of profit. However, if they don’t, we need to encourage them to do better.
And what can the companies and corporations do to incorporate ESG in their practices? Well, above all, they need to become environmentally conscious and start implementing zero waste principles whenever possible. That’s not all, though — ESG also encourages managers to pay more attention to social justice and other humanitarian movements.
And it’s no longer enough for a company to simply claim it’s interested in environmental and other concerns. Investors now want action; they want to see that businesses are truly practising what they preach. Anyone can claim to be an activist, but that’s not enough to actually save the planet.
Sustainable finance is the future
We may not know exactly what the key to saving the planet is, but sustainability seems to bring us at least a step closer. The zero waste movement is a part of it too, and currently, a driving force asking us to change our practices to more eco-friendly ones.
But this time around, it’s not just regular people and consumers who need to change. The financial sector, including various companies and corporations, has to do better too, and zero waste movement supporters understand that. For once, these businesses aren’t the ones driving the trend but instead have to adjust to environmentalists’ demands.
But is this commitment to eco-friendly practices just a fad that most companies will quickly forget about? We don’t think so. If anything, environmental concerns will only grow stronger unless we do something about them. People across the world are slowly becoming aware of how dire the situation is, and their demands will grow louder. As time goes by, it might become unacceptable for a business not to show interest in ESG.
Whatever the case, one thing is certain — sustainable finance is the future. We see it taking roots already, and who knows how far it will go in a few years?
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