The use of traditional open fire cooking methods is one of the characteristics associated with poverty, especially in the developing world. Such methods are known for their health and environmental impacts. Besides resulting in environmental degradation through deforestation and release of high levels of carbon dioxide, these methods also result in multiple health related issues such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. As such, the shift from the traditional cooking methods to contemporary methods such as the clean cookstoves initiative can help not only to improve the quality of life of the users but also to reduce the environmental impacts of traditional cooking methods. The growing concern about environmental conservation over the recent years makes the adoption of clean cookstoves an even more welcome initiative among local communities. This is because the initiative helps to advance global efforts towards environmental conservation.
Various environmental issues have been described based on their effects to the livelihood of human beings. According to UN Environment (2010) the major environmental issues of concern over the last few years include the destruction of water catchment areas, deforestation, the depletion of the ozone layer and the release of large volumes of greenhouse gases. Accordingly, any approaches that can reduce the impacts of these environmental concerns is recognized as an essential player in the efforts towards environmental conservation. The adoption of clean cookstoves for instance, promises to help reduce the degree of deforestation for fuel due to the low fuel consumption by the stoves (Kumar et al., 2017). Additionally, those stoves promote complete combustion of fuel hence reducing the percentage of greenhouse gas emissions generated during conventional cooking. Other possible environmental outcomes include increased conservation of water catchment areas through retention of forest cover, and improved overall health quality of the users due to low emissions.
The use of clean cookstoves comes with high initial costs, which is mostly mentioned as the reason behind purchase failure by poor communities. However, evidence has shown that through effective use of the clean cookstoves and leveraging the long term operational benefits of the technology, it is possible to access both economic and social benefits. A study by Jeuland and Pattanayak (2012) reported that while the clean cookstoves are slightly more expensive than the traditional cooking methods, their operations costs approximately 34% lower than the price of the new cookstove. This statistic shows that it is possible for the cookstove to pay its own cost within one month of purchase. With continued use, the cookstoves can help households save their monthly expenses, putting the funds in other expense items and subsequently improving the quality of life of the users.
Additionally, the cookstoves are associated with lower emissions and lower levels of exposure to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Considering the health-related costs incurred by households and the country at large as a result of smoke-related issues, the reduction in smoke exposure among poor households will help reduce the prevalence of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases among those families, thereby reducing their economic burdens (Lewis et al., 2015). Additionally, such diseases impose a social burden on members of the affected individuals’ families as they have to be taken care of continuously, which results in loss of time. Accordingly, when the risk of cardiovascular diseases is reduced, the burden of taking care of the sick, which limits the quality of life family members can live, is eliminated. Clean cookstoves promise to enhance the health quality of users by limiting their exposure to smoke.
Section 1: External Forces or Influences
Sustainability is one of the most common concepts in modern day corporate operations. Every organization works with the objective of improving its performance particularly in aspects that are globally recognized and which have been mentioned as crucial towards global adjustments. Accordingly, factors such as environmental consideration, the drive towards energy management, and the recognition for change have played a crucial role in driving companies towards sustainable business practices. Interface produces household décor materials such as tiles and carpets from different materials including rubber and vinyl (Interface, 2019). Each of these materials is associated with specific features that make them environmentally destructive and thus making the business unsustainable. However, the company has developed an effective strategy through which it intends greater sustainability, not only through continuous improvement but also through setting ambitious goals to be achieved over a specific period of time.
One of the company’s key external motivations has been global concerns about the environment. With the increasing realization of the impacts of human activity on the environment, companies across the world have been coming up with strategies that can help them reduce their impacts on the environment. These practices include a focus on particular elements of the environment, on which they know their operations have the greatest impacts. For Interface for instance, the sustainability journey has been instrumental towards achieving various goals including reduction of water usage, reduction of waste, and limiting greenhouse gas emissions (Interface, 2019). Each of these goals is influenced by a specific environmental outcome that has previously been used as a measure of sustainability. The decision by the company to use various approaches to ensuring environmental sustainability is also informed by the reported impacts of different manufacturing activities on the environment and global warming.
The strategic plans developed by the company stated the specific goals that the company has with reference to each of the elements of environmental sustainability. For instance, the company aims at reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 96%, reducing the manufacturing water use by up to 89% and by reducing the carbon footprints by 69% (Interface, 2019). Each of these goals and others affect the environmental impacts of the company in one way or the other, and have been influenced by the global concerns around environmental conservation.
Secondly, the company has some of its goals aligned with energy conservation requirements around the globe. Besides environmental conservation, the issue of energy conservation, particularly through shifting from fossil fuel based energy sources to renewable energy sources, has been one of the major concerns around the world due to increasing depletion of energy resources. Interface’s objectives in sustainability are also centered on certain aspects of energy conservation, with significant identification of how the fossil fuel industry contributes to energy depletion. These objectives are in alignment with the global trends in energy conservation awareness, and the recognition of active players in the sustainable energy sector. The company has put in place initiatives such as increasing its global manufacturing renewable energy use by 89%, moving to 100% renewable energy use in manufacturing; and reducing the overall energy use by 46% through effective management (Interface, 2019). Each of these initiatives drives a particular element of energy conservation. The overall objective of the company is to be the global benchmark in manufacturing sustainability, and with the already outlined objectives, Interface may well be on the way to recognition.
The third driver has been global recognition of the company’s sustainability efforts. According to Armeanu, Vintila and Gherghina (2018), sustainability is described as the core driver of longevity in any business and of recognition in the social sphere. According to Interface, the decision to pursue sustainability was founded on the question regarding what the company was doing for the environment. Notably, all activities and plans associated with sustainable business are in one way or the other related to the environment (Interface, 2019). Energy and water conservation practices as well as waste management, are all related to the environment, and the company has taken the initiative to pursue these goals ardently. The awareness that all these practices contribute to their answer to the question on what the company is doing for the environment was a motivating factor for the sustainability plans. This is because it came with the realization that the more impact the company makes on the environment, the greater the recognition it would gain through environmental sustainability (Interface, 2019). The company efforts have borne fruit through global recognition as the company has since managed to create networks, prove the viability of its methods, and record phenomenal achievements in each category of its environmental sustainability plan.
Interface’s plans and growth in sustainability over the past years are proof that commitment to sustainability can drive long term change. The company has made serious efforts compared to many others in the same industry. Considering the impacts of the operations of such companies on the environment, any efforts towards environmental sustainability should be recognized.
Section 2: Internal Forces or Influences
For every organization, the ability to make decisions around sustainability depends on external as well as internal factors. One of the internal factors that affect sustainability decisions is the management support (Armeanu et al., 2019). Sustainability decisions mostly require funding, human resources and time allocation. For this reason, the approval of the management is a necessity towards attaining sustainability. It is therefore important to get the management to understand the essence of sustainable development, the contributions of the organization towards environmental degradation, and the role it can play in supporting sustainability growth. Needless to say, management support can be a crucial influencer of sustainability decisions as it can either limit or expand the scope of sustainability (Yadav, Gupta, Rani, & Rawat, 2018). The organization’s management provides guidelines on the organizational behaviors, ethics, and knowledge management, and also helps in the development of strategies towards job satisfaction for other employees to be actively involved in sustainability efforts.
The management at Interface has proven capable of supporting sustainable development not only through funding but also through availability of a platform that can be used by other employees as a benchmark for sustainability participation. The management, through the strategic plan, has provided a vision for the company that is quite specific, and which can be used to direct the visions of other employees. Through an alignment with the global environmental conservation initiatives, the company management has provided resources, engaged in partnerships and developed initiatives that can be pursued separately to attain the common goal of sustainability. The actions of the company’s management are in alignment with the company goals and with the report of Tur-Porcar, Roig-Tierno, and Mestre (2018), who posit that the management is responsible for developing a culture that supports sustainability. Furthermore, this culture has opened up an opportunity for creativity.
The company’s financial status can also be cited as a possible driver of sustainability decisions and activities. According to Yadav et al. (2018), sustainability efforts require financial inputs to be able to see all the projects through to completion. Funds can be obtained through the company’s revenue as well as through subsidies obtained from partners and other players in sustainability efforts. Availability of funding also influences the magnitude of activity that a company can engage in. For a company such as Interface, planning all the sustainability related activities implies that there are funds to implement them. These funds are mostly internally generated given that the company has not reported multiple partnerships like other companies such as Shell and HP. However, the company has developed an initiative, Net-works, through which it collaborates with other organizations to get recycling materials at cheaper costs and to impact surrounding communities. While this may not directly contribute to the finances for sustainable development at Interface, the initiative helps to save costs by having access to low cost materials.
Sustainable development also requires an organization to be profitable. Funds may be available for project initiation but without profitability, the continuation of such projects may be a challenge. For Interface therefore, it can be deduced that the company has not only been profitable, but also willing to put in more resources into sustainability. Running sustainable operations from 1994 could not have been possible without finances, which is considered a primary driving factor for sustainability. The company’s decisions around projects and sustained allocation of resources to different objectives reflect the profitability of the company.
Section 3: Global Impacts of Initiatives
In the recent times, the global focus has been on initiatives that improve environmental sustainability. At the core of these initiatives lies the decision by individual companies to make changes that can drive sustainable development across the globe. One such company is Interface, which has made significant commitments to sustainability through specific measures to reduce energy consumption and wastage and to conserve the environment. The use of fossil-fuels as a source of energy contributes significantly to environmental concerns around increased global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer (Huang, Jhong, & Ding, 2013). However, with the commitment of individual companies towards reduction of emissions from fossil fuel combustion, the global objective of reducing emissions can be met collaboratively. Interface therefore, is a participant in the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through its focus on energy consumption reduction and the shift to renewable energy use across all its global manufacturing companies.
The reduction of environmental impacts involves several activities, all of which Interface engages in. The company’s Mission Zero goal has been supported by local partners in sustainability and recognized as a good initiative towards environmental conservation and probably impactful towards culture change. According to Interface (2019) the company has made significant steps in getting sustainable building materials for use through the green building strategy, aimed at making the global climate more suitable for supporting life. This particular method has also encouraged other industry players to begin replicating the same initiative across the world. Coupled with practices such as the energy conservation and green building awards that occur each year, the current global orientation on energy conservation and the investment of other companies in energy conserving technologies, Interface has made such a strong impact in the industry.
Section 4: Technology for Sustainable Development
The company’s progress towards better sustainability has been fostered through effective use of technology. Various kinds of technology are important for sustainable development due to the role that technology plays not only in communications but also in knowledge sharing. The most profound use to which Interface has placed technology was been in communication, both internally and externally. The execution of sustainable development plans requires internal planning and information sharing, while effective partnership requires consultation and continuous collaboration (Akotia & Yadav, 2018). For this to happen effectively, easy technology based communication channels such as e-mails and the social media have come in handy for the company. Additionally, the same communication channels have also been instrumental for access to global information on climate change and energy consumption, data collection and analysis regarding the progress gained over the years. This information has been used by Interface to plan projected changes, schedule action plans for sustainable development and report on continuous change.
Technology has also been instrumental towards advancement in approaches that encourage energy utilization effectiveness. New production technologies with lower energy consumption, lower waste production, and renewable energy use capabilities have been adopted by the company into its production processes, resulting in better outcomes with regards to the distinct environmental conservation goals of the company (Farid, 2015). Additionally, a reduction of water consumption and wastage can also be attributed to technologically advanced methods. All these factors therefore, have continued to prove the viability of changes in the manufacturing sector as a strategy for better environmental conservation.
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