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This Earth Day Companies Can Commit to Reducing Consumption, or Risk Losing Its Resources

By Faustyna Hariasz, Associate Manager, Strategic Engagement, CECP

Imagine if we ran Earth like a company? We’d be going out of business! Especially after the annual Earth Overshoot Day, which measures how human consumption is outstripping the resources nature can regenerate. Since the 1970s, when the Global Footprint Network started keeping track of the data, humanity’s ecological footprint and Earth’s biocapacity have diverged and the planet’s resources now will only last us until late July. The rest of the five months or 41% of the year, we operate at an ecological deficit. We continue to live beyond our means.

It’s not a perfect analogy. Sometimes, operating on credit is a healthy thing. Yet often business investments deplete current material resources to ensure long-term growth and gains. And yet, perhaps it could be a helpful analogy to reframe the way we think about our stewardship of the Earth’s resources. Earth Overshoot Day and the movement to #MoveTheDate is yet another sobering reminder that we must be more diligent about our consumption and our “spending” of Earth’s resources if we want to have a sustainable future. 

Currently, the math does not add up. For example, the new Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose® (CECP) Investing in Society  report finds despite 90.55% of Fortune 500® companies having adopted a waste-reduction policy due to a lack of recycling infrastructure, the amount of waste recycled has continued to decrease with Fortune 500® companies, reporting a decrease of 9.1% between 2019 and 2021.

This begs the question: how might we budget our resources better? How might we make Earth’s profit and loss (P&L) more tangible? How might we work across departments, sectors, and borders to ensure future gains and dividends? There are no Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) to unlock bigger budgets, no mergers on the horizon, no bailouts available.

Many of CECP’s affiliate companies have been asking themselves these questions for years and are building partnerships and coalitions to tackle climate change globally. These are businesses working to build resilient communities in their backyards and partnering with governments worldwide to set equitable, sustainable strategies, and priorities. They are capturing data, adjusting supply chains, making plans to reduce emissions with urgency, and measuring progress because the adage goes, you cannot manage what you do not measure. 

Currently, humans use as many ecological resources as if we lived on 1.75 Earths. As we celebrate Earth Day today, we must remember that we only have the one we live on right now.  

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A single business or individual may seemingly have a small part to play, but our collective (in)actions have a very real impact on our shared resources. To better manage our budget, businesses, leaders, governments, and individuals must all work together, or we will run the Earth and ourselves “out of business”. 

CECP’s purpose is to empower companies to drive long-term business success and partners with companies to build long-term sustainable value. Our ESG and Sustainable Business resources and benefits are available to all affiliated companies. Please reach out about how we can help you.