Resources from nature have been used to profit humans, while nature itself has languished under extreme exploitation. Even though there have been massive technological revolutions, there has also been an acceleration of climate change catastrophes. The deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is imminent, but we still remain at a $2.5 trillion investment gap.
What Needs to Be Done?
3BL Associates is a firm that has come up with a methodology called Public-Planet Partnerships, which outlines the ethos and methods in which the planet and its resources can be made into equivalent partners with the public sector. This includes government institutions, private organizations, and social responsibility groups, essentially the human element.
After generations of humans using the earth for individualistic profit, this partnership aims at developing a circular economy that is mutually beneficial and has a win-win and regenerative effect on nature.
The first PPP workshop was launched during the UN COP 22 Climate conference in Morocco.
As taught by centuries of practices performed by indigenous tribes, nature has brilliant regenerative properties, intricate designs, and in the words of Leena Al Olaimy, remains "the greatest innovator, engineer, and designer."
So, natural resources have to be leveraged. Although natural capital is non-linear, it is estimated to be worth $125 trillion. The PPP framework attempts to "combine deep-thinking, management consulting and spiritual ecology with a science-based approach to enable regenerative collaboration" between humans and the natural world.
Some ways in which 3BL Associates has proposed leveraging nature to develop such circularity is:
- Cardboard to Caviar Initiative in which worms can be fed compost waste, which are then eaten by sturgeon fish, which is later harvested for caviar.
- Partnering with fungi to fight global hunger.
- Partnering with pigeons to monitor air pollution.
- Partnering with frogs to collect data on water health indicators.
How Can Each Sector Help?
The private, public and non-profit sectors each have their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. There needs to be a collaborative effort where their skills and expertise can be streamlined, hence increasing efficacy instead of one sector attempting it all on its own.
- Industries and organizations need to incorporate sustainability as a part of their strategic framework and profit-making mechanism instead of being an add-on post profit.
- The private sector can utilize their expertise in speed, innovation, and the know-how behind operations.
- Governments should increase inter and intragovernmental co-operation to assess, evaluate, and harness potential resources without damaging the ecology.
- Governments need to outline requirements for all public and private bodies to develop multi-stakeholder engagement plans where sustainability becomes a minimum criterion.
- There needs to be visible recognition and celebration of organizations' efforts to encourage others to join the collaborations.
- Governments can also provide tax incentives to companies actively and strategically funding non-profits working on sustainability.
The Bottom Line
According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord creates an additional $2 billion gap in the Green Climate Fund. We can no longer only focus on human-centric development. Considering this is the final decade to realize the Sustainable Development Goals, the short-term viability of focusing on economic growth while ignoring the long-term costs has to be recognized and acted upon urgently. Institutional investment by the private sector is required to propel large public sector firms to account for environmental, social, and corporate governance in all their decisions.