Justice means something different to each one of us, but I believe that most of us hope for a better world than the one we see today. While there are some issues that are clearly visible to us, many injustices often remain hidden from public conversation. A holistic approach to justice is an approach that focuses on the whole problem: the elements that we see on the news every day, but also the systems and problems that are entrenched in our society, problems that we can unknowingly perpetuate through ways that we choose to live our lives.
Often we do this simply because we don’t know the problems we may be fuelling, or no one has ever told us about the alternatives that exist.
The way we live this out will look different for each of us, but there are are choices and changes we can make to care for people and the planet. Whether it be getting involved in local politics, signing petitions, or swapping your shopping habits, there are options out there that are working to break cycles of exploitation and abuse.
How does sustainability work?
Sustainability draws on science, engineering and social sciences to find ways to care for our natural environment, human wellbeing and ecological health in innovative ways. Whilst sustainability does prioritise the environment, this isn’t the only concern in mind. It also looks to protect our health as a society, making sure no people or areas of life suffer, and examines the long term effects of humanity’s choices, asking how we can do better.
Some of the key goals for sustainable development, outlined by the United Nations, include the following:
- To eradicate poverty and hunger
- Better standards of education and healthcare, in particular improving water quality and sanitation
- To achieve gender equality
- Sustainable economic growth while promoting jobs and stronger economies
- Tackling the effects of climate change, pollution and other environmental factors that can harm and do harm people’s health, livelihoods and lives
- Looking after the health of our land, air and water systems
When it comes to putting these into practice, there are three core pillars of sustainability:
Focusing on the protection of ecosystems, air quality, integrity and sustainability of our resources and focusing on factors that place stress on the environment. It also examines how technology can contribute to a more sustainable future. In practice this could look like anything from businesses cutting their carbon footprint, reducing excess packaging, using renewable energy, utilising eco-friendly materials and managing their water use.
This is the element that focuses on people, and protecting their health and wellbeing from both environmental issues and other harmful activities of businesses and organisations. This element applies to how businesses treat their own workers, as well as how they impact the wider community. Internally this looks like treating employees fairly; including fair and equal pay, safe working conditions, the eradication of child labour and slavery in supply chains, benefits such as maternity and paternity leave, and learning and development opportunities. Externally this often looks like being a good member of the local and global community, both in terms of community engagement such as local public projects, investment and fundraising, but also in ensuring a company’s actions don’t harm the lives of others.
To be sustainable (aka able to be maintained) businesses and ideas must be profitable, but in such a way that profit isn’t prioritised over people or the environment. The economic pillar includes areas such as proper governance, and also enables organisations to make changes in achievable ways: phasing things in rather than attempting a complete overhaul and collapsing from the vastness of the task. On a larger scale economic development is about giving people what they want without compromising quality of life and reducing the financial burden of doing the right thing.
How does this apply to me?
Supporting companies that adopt the three pillars of sustainability into their business practice takes your financial investment out of corporations that may be engaging in ecological devastation, human rights abuses and unethical financial practice. Whilst one persons actions alone may seem pointless, the more people who choose to shop sustainably and demand better from corporations, the more pressure there is to see changes happen. At the same time, choosing to live a more conscious lifestyle can look like integrating elements from these three areas into the way we live our lives each day.
Choosing to live a more sustainable, informed and conscious life is about choosing to live with an awareness of how our actions, including where we spend our money, may impact the environment and other people. It’s about deciding what we value, and choosing to live this out not just by supporting charities and causes (which is great), but also in the holistic way of our day to day choices. It’s about recognising our privilege and using it to lift up the voices of those who often go ignored by society. Whether this is reducing our waste, supporting Black Lives Matter or buying sustainable fashion, it’s about how each choice we make can be a way to move forwards, to eradicate oppression in our lifetime.
Ethical Unicorn believes that living a sustainable, justice focused life is about combining consumer choice, intersectional collective action, and policy change. This blog strives to discuss each of these areas in accessible and understandable ways, helping you to implement changes in your own lives.