I think one thing that many of us can agree on is that the world needs a change.
We live in a time of individuality, where freedom of expression is encouraged and people in many places are more able to be themselves. However, that certainly does not mean that the world is perfect and socio-economic issues are still rife all around the globe. In the United Kingdom alone, for example, 22% of people are living in poverty and there is still a noticeable divide between the genders.
As a result, in 2015 the United Nations developed seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to try and ensure that all people enjoy peace and equality. They promised to meet these goals by the year 2030. And now, with ten years left on their mission, it is safe to say that there is still a way to go.
The question is: in a world of capitalism and greed, is it even possible to become sustainable?
What are the SDGs?
The SDGs cover all aspects of society, from economy to education to equality.
Good health and well being
Clean water and sanitation
Affordable and clean energy
Decent work and economic growth
Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
Sustainable cities and communities
Responsible consumption and production
Life below the water
Life on land
Peace, justice, and strong institutions
Partnerships for the goals
Inequality is of course a vast concept, and there are many strands that could be considered. However, what I want to do is open an economic discourse. Is there any practicality to attempting to eradicate poverty and hunger and create a more sustainable world whilst also continuing under a capitalistic structure?
First off, what is capitalism? A quick google tells you it is-
‘An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.’
Many countries all around the world live in a capitalist regime, England being one of them. Money is power and it is at the heart of everything we do.
One of the biggest issues with a capitalist system is that it brings about inequality, something that the SDGs are trying to eradicate. It runs on a free and open competition. Consequently, some companies are simply able to exploit the system for the opportunities it provides. As a result, it is unsustainable because it doesn’t give any economic incentives for sustaining life.
Capitalism may come with some pros (better product quality and bigger levels of freedom), but there are also many cons, especially for lower skilled workers. It can result in rent costs increasing and properties in general being a higher price.
This brings me to what I was saying earlier: under a capitalist system, are the SDGs even possible? I honestly do not believe that in less than ten years time we will have seen an end to poverty and hunger. I do not believe that we will have completely reduced inequalities. It simply cannot happen when we live under a structure that makes it so hard for the middle and lower classes, and means that there are such economic discrepancies.
This does not mean, however, that there is absolutely nothing we can do. We cannot change the fact that we live under capitalism. Regardless, there are small changes that we could make in order to make the world more sustainable.
What can we do?
So, instead of just talking about it we need to do something. For the most part, we don’t have the power that the government has. As a result, there is a lengthy list of things that we are unable to do or change. However, in terms of sustainability, a little can go a long way. For example, there are many companies out there that promise that they are sustainable. This includes clothing brands. One way in which we as consumers can do our part in helping the planet is by beginning to shop at more ethical and sustainable brands. These include:
BEEN London. Everything they sell is made from recycled products
Elvis and Kresse. The company upcycles reclaimed materials
Birdsong. This company is incredibly inclusive
Wires. This is a sustainable eyewear company
Culthread. They produce jackets to last forever and made from vegan materials
Just one search on the internet helps you discover such a wide selection of sustainable brands from the UK alone. So why don’t more people shop sustainable? The answer is simple, and relates to the rest of what I have been saying - money. Typically, in order for a brand to be sustainable, it costs more to make the product. As a result, they have to increase the price on the item so that they can make a profit. Money controls the vast majority of what society does. It controls decisions made by governments and decisions made by us. When people see a bag for £20 and a bag for £200, many will make the same decision and go for the cheaper option. Most of us simply cannot afford to be sustainable.
As a result, while the Sustainable Development Goals point us towards a much fairer and economically perfect world, I do not believe that we can ever be fully sustainable unless big changes were made with the higher ups. However, whenever you can, have a look at some of the brands I’ve mentioned or search it for yourself. There are so many amazing brands out there that are trying their hardest to make the world more sustainable and it is really quite amazing.