Reconciling long-term economic growth with a livable planet

Reconciling long-term economic growth with a livable planet

June 5 is World Environment Day (WED)

This year’s theme is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with care”. It aims to make people aware of how the well-being of humanity, the environment and economies ultimately depends on the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. Evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide.

Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our way of life.

Global standards on sustainable development and the environmental footprint

The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) offer a comprehensive range of standards and normative documents dealing with environmental issues.

  • ISO has developed standards that help organizations to take a proactive approach to managing environmental issues: the ISO 14000 family (Environmental Management Systems), developed by ISO/TC 207. The fact that the leadership of this ISO committee is shared between a developed and a developing country, guarantees that the needs of the developing countries are considered in the drafting of standards.
  • Standards and normative documents such as NBN EN ISO 14064 and CEN ISO/TS 14067 help to meet the challenge of climate change. The first deals with greenhouse gas accounting and verification, while the latter treats the measurement of the carbon footprint of products. ISO is also collaborating with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to further elaborate standards measuring essential climate variables that help to characterize the effects of climate change.
  • ISO and CEN also develop normative documents to facilitate the fusion of business and environmental goals by encouraging the inclusion of environmental aspects in product design.

Economic growth should not automatically lead to rising rates of natural resource use and increased environmental impacts. Standards can help organizations to find sustainable environmental solutions.