Sustainable development is more than a greening trend and instead reflects the core ways of making decisions, according to keynote speaker Edward L. Quevedo, JD, at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo (AIHce) in Toronto.
“I’d like to start reorienting you to the notion of sustainable development,” he said during his presentation, Sustainable Development Beyond Borders: Taking an Active and Meaningful Role in Advancing Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility in Your Organization.
Quevedo, who is a special counsel in Farella Braun + Martel's Environmental Law Department and chair of the Sustainability Group, stressed that sustainability is understanding the difference between cause and effect. Sustainable development, he added, is “a notion of social conscience,” where we value nature and each other as least as much as we value money.
“Money is good. Money is a driver, money circulates. It connects us, it connects the world. But it has its place,” he said.
Sustainable development teaches us, Quevedo said, that there are three types of resources:
“If I’m right that there are only three types of resources available, then we better be darn careful about the responsibility of using those resources – and we haven’t been,” he said. As a result, two of those resources – ecosystems and financial systems – currently are in collapse. One of the first steps to take, Quevedo suggested, is to slow down and reflect.
“I want to counsel reflection,” he said. “I want to suggest that one of the fundamental principles of sustainable development is to do the same thing the entrepreneur does when she gathers her team to form a new enterprise. A good entrepreneur will periodically stop and say ‘hold on, what are we doing here?’ I propose … we pause and think and have a little humility.”
Sustainable development can be viewed as reintroducing business to its fundamental relationship with nature and people, Quevedo added. And that means asking, “Can I assure my stakeholders before I act that [this] will improve the ecological, human and financial well-being of my team, my business, the larger community?”
Quevedo also pointed out that what is sustainable for a specific business today will be different tomorrow.
“It isn’t about the environment … It’s not a fad, it’s not to do with ecology,” he said. “Sustainability is a way of making decisions, a way of running a business.”