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15 paths to sustainability

Building a sustainable future requires changes in the way we produce, consume and live. Everyone — civil society organizations, businesses and governments alike — need to play their part to foster the uptake of sustainable and healthy practices. To inspire these actors, we have created 15 Paths to Sustainability.

The first set of 8 paths demand changes in the ways we produce and consume:


Durable more than disposable

Although the initial cost may be high, durable products provide a greater return on investment over time because you don’t have to buy new ones, meaning more money in your pocket in the long-term. When looking for durable goods, check to see if the product can be repaired or refurbished / reconditioned to avoid having to buy a new one further down the line. This naturally benefits the environment by reducing the consumption of natural resources to produce new items.

Supporting local production helps boost the local economy and reduces impacts generated by the emission of greenhouse gases during transport. Buying closer to home also means consumers can find out more about the origin of the product and the impacts it causes.


Locally-produced more than globally-produced


Sharing more than individual use
Meeting the needs of more people, sharing cuts out the amount of time a product remains idle, making optimal use of the product throughout its useful life. Product sharing avoids the extraction of natural resources to produce new items, eliminating the impacts of resource consumption. Collaborative consumption cuts out excess, because it’s all about use rather than purchase.


Full use more than waste
Making full use of an item means using everything that is used during the production process and all its parts. Full use is therefore the opposite of waste. In the case of food, choosing recipes that make use of peels and rinds, stems and seeds, and using fruit and vegetables that have passed their best are examples within this path. With other items, extending the useful life of products as much as possible by taking good care of them and repairing and reconditioning them when they break is another example.


Healthy more than harmful
At work and during leisure and everyday activities, healthy choices – made possible through access to information – foster balance and well-being. With regard food, eating organic foods produced without pesticides results in lower consumption of medicines to treat possible illnesses further down the line and less environmental damage.


Virtual more than physical
It’s important to explain that virtual products are not necessarily totally non-physical, because they need servers to work and electronic devices to be accessed. All the same, virtual products are certainly a low-waste alternative to physical products. Encouraging the development of new technologies promotes a continuous reduction in the consumption of natural resources along supply chains and reduces transportation demands (for both freight and people).
Concentrated products provide a number of benefits, both for consumers and for the environment. They do the same job as normal non-concentrated products, but using significantly less water and packaging. Because they are more compact, they produce less waste and reduce volume for transportation, consequently lessening the emission of greenhouse gases. They are also easier to store at home because they require less storage space.


Concentrated more than diluted


Experience more than tangible goods
Consumerism tends to focus on material goods, when in fact consumers realize the importance of sensations, experiences, emotions and social interaction — which can leave a lasting mark on our memory. On commemorative dates, spend time with family and friends instead of giving presents for example.
A second set of 4 paths requires businesses to change how they operate and share value:


Cooperation more than competition
By adopting collaborative strategies (as opposed to competition), businesses can speed up changes in the way they produce and in their products and markets. In doing so, they can also contribute to finding swift solutions to problems linked to the negative impacts of the manufacture, use and disposal of goods.


Advertising not geared towards consumerism
Most advertising is aimed at selling a given product or service. However, it doesn’t need to promote the UNsustainability inherent in impulse buying, disregarding consumers’ real needs. Advertising can raise awareness, address well-being needs and provide consumers the information they need to make informed decisions based on what they judge best for themselves, society as a whole, the economy and the environment.


Businesses disclosing the socioenvironmental impacts of their products / services
The better consumers are informed, the easier it is for them to take into account the impacts of their consumption when buying a product or service. Active business transparency therefore consists of the desire to disclose all the impacts derived from the production, use and disposal of goods and services, helping consumers make better choices.


Businesses sharing value fairly among all stakeholders
The idea of creating shared value is a shift from the limited value creation approach, geared towards shareholder interests, to a broader social approach focused on the creation and sharing of value between the company and diverse stakeholders: staff, clients, suppliers, local communities and the wider society.
A third set of 3 paths demands changes in the way life in society is organized:


Managing our time to strike a balance between work, education, affective relations and leisure
Effectively dividing our time between various activities is essential for maintaining physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Businesses, governments and society should therefore offer alternatives that enable people to achieve a healthy balance between work, education, affective relations, spiritual development, creative idleness and leisure. Businesses can contribute by introducing flexible working hours or allowing staff to work at home, for example, helping people to make better use of their time across all the key elements of a humanized life.


Global workload reduced and redistributed
The 40-hour working week has endured around practically the whole world since 1890, despite enormous advances in science and technology and productivity gains. The maintenance of the working week has meant that these gains in productivity have not been passed on to workers, leading to growing income concentration, benefiting only a few. Reducing and redistributing the global workload is essential to achieving the fairer distribution of productivity gains.
Contemporary society is characterized by excessive consumption, workloads, waste and other environmental impacts, and the unfair distribution of the benefits of development. Replacing excess with sufficiency across all aspects of life is one of the lifestyle changes needed to ensure that there is enough, for everyone, forever.


Sufficiency more than excess