April 21, 2023
When we think of sustainability, of doing what we can in business and society to preserve and protect the environment, it’s easy to want to think of quick fixes; things we can do right now to solve the problem. We think in terms of products that we can buy to help, and products to avoid; processes to implement, and those to abandon. We want to solve the problem and move on to something else.
But sustainability is not a trend. It will not fade away or be replaced by a new trend. As such, our collective responsibility cannot fade. Operating sustainably is the new way of doing business. We must operate thoughtfully with an eye on how our decisions may impact those that come after us, down the road and into the future.
The concept is not new. I’ve always been fond of Wendell Berry’s often misattributed line from his 1971 book, The Unforeseen Wilderness, “…the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.”
As I wrote last November, despite the well-intentioned efforts of governments and international bodies, like the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, industry need not wait for regulation to act on emissions, energy, and waste. We can, and many organizations have, act now to reduce and eliminate our carbon emissions, to increase our use of renewables, and to insist that our supply chains are aligned with our missions.
For our part at Hitachi, we are aggressively implementing initiatives to improve our environmental footprint, from our energy usage and emissions, all the way to the products and solutions we develop that are more eco-friendly than previous iterations. We are also expanding this work to involve our extensive partner ecosystem to ensure that everyone with whom we work is on the same sustainability page as we are. Our corporate goals are well documented, to be carbon neutral as a global company by 2030, and to be carbon neutral across our entire value chain by 2050. And while there is tremendous work being done, there’s much more to come.
Like many, I was heartened by the recent Global Electricity Report 2023 from the global energy think tank, Ember, that reported electricity generation was its “cleanest ever” in 2022, falling to a record low of 436 gCO2/kWh, due to dramatic growth in wind and solar generation around the globe. In fact, the report noted that more than 60 countries “now generate more than 10% of their electricity from wind and solar.”
The Future is Not Ours
As we spend Earth Day speaking of policies, programs, and targets to be more environmentally responsible, I encourage you to think of the potential value of all your programs on the future. When we ingrain sustainability into everything we do, with a view of the impact of our decisions on the next generation, it sets in motion actions for the next generation to replicate; momentum is generated and perpetuated, ad infinitum.
A little more than 100 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt said, "I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."
The future is not ours, but it is our responsibility. And unless you haven’t been paying attention, our children, the next generation, are in many ways taking a more proactive leadership role in this area than we are. They are demanding action, and it is time for us to step up and meet the challenge.
Let us demonstrate to them, through decisive action, that we are listening and that we are committed to creating a better world for them. It is time to set aside short-term thinking and embrace a long-term approach that considers the implications of our actions on future generations.
Indeed, let us be inspired by the leadership of our children and work together to create a greener future. By doing so, we can ensure that we leave behind a legacy we can be proud of – a world that is healthy and sustainable.