Friday, 3 August 2007

Sustainability, photography and the 3 Ps

So what is "sustainability"?

Sustainability is finding a balance between environmental, social and economic factors and can be defined as "treating the World as if we intended to stay" (Robert Gray, 1993).

A quick way of remembering the 3 factors is planet, people and profit.

Another way of putting it is making sure that we live our lives using and replenishing the resources we have on this one planet of ours, and not being greedy and wasteful in our habits, pretending we have enough resources as if we live on 3 or more planets.

The World Wildlife Fund has some excellent resources and have set up a "One Planet Living" Campaign that I urge you to visit.

It is very easy for us to say that the planet or environment is the most important thing for us to concentrate on. Certainly climate change, greenhouse gases, green issues seem to be the focus in the press.

I do not disagree with the planet's importance. Without it, we are goners.

Surely it is more realistic to recognise that for us to make sure we cause less harm, we have to consider all of these 3Ps and get the best balance we can?

Where is the likely success and lasting power of measures to save the planet if they in turn cost people their jobs because companies do not make enough profit to employ them?

I would emphasise the word “enough” here. “Excessive” is what we usually associate with companies making profits, and normally at the expense of others. I believe times are changing and I’ll give you an example based on my interest in photography.

I have some Pentax SLR gear, and in particular a great camera, the Pentax ME Super.

Hopefully, I will raise enough money via some eBay sales to buy a DSLR and am keen to still be able to use my existing Pentax based lenses. They are still good and I do not want to throw them away.

Consumer power and buying behaviour will change things. I want sustainable products in the shops so although I can’t change the situation overnight for everyone, I can at least play my part as an individual.

I sent an enquiry to Pentax via their web site to ask about how sustainable their products are.

The reply I received was as follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your enquiry.

What I understand from your email is that you are interested in how social and environmental conscious we produce our products.

Please find more information about these topics on the
following website:
http://www.pentax.co.jp/english/company/environment/report/2006.html

I hope that your question has been answered to your satisfaction.

Should you have further questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to
contact us again.

When replying, please make sure this email is included.

With kind regards,

J***** S********

Pentax Digital Camera Support Team

Looking at the links you find here is very interesting. They are certainly going in the right direction and taking steps to reduce their harmful activities and increase their beneficial ones. You will find statements about their company and products relating to the environment and social aspects. Their annual accounts show that the improvements they are gradually making has not stopped them from doing well financially.

Of course there will always be more that companies like Pentax can do. We should not damn them for not getting to a good situation straight away. Maybe we should encourage their efforts as getting the balance between the 3Ps takes time?

I am optimistic that if we all start asking companies questions about how sustainable their company and their products and services are, they will start to get the message that consumers will spend their money with the more sustainable companies and not with those who focus on profit generation.

Before you buy something significant, why not contact the company and find out what they are doing to make what they do sustainable?

Some other resources that are useful is “The Good Shopping Guide” book, Gooshing, Ethiscore, and “The Rough Guide to Ethical Living” book.

And if you want to be really sustainable, why not borrow the books from your local library rather than buy them?
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