Each year, Earth Overshoot Day signifies the date from which we, humans, start to consume more resources than the Earth can provide us. Humanity will have exhausted all the renewable resources that the planet is capable of producing in a defined period. In 2022, this day corresponds to July 28, against July 29 in 2021. What is this fateful date established by an environmental NGO? What are the issues at stake for stakeholders? What changes can companies make?
The planet will live exactly 156 days on credit by using up the natural capital of the coming years or by being in the red with regard to depleted resources: out of the 365 calendar days in 2022, it will have taken only 208 days for humanity to spend all the available natural resources that the planet is capable of generating.
What is the Earth Overshoot Day ?
Definition and stakes of the day of exhaustion of the earth's resources
Earth Overshoot Day is a leading indicator to measure the impact of human activity on the Earth's available stock of resources and in the coming months. The Earth's Overshoot Day is calculated by taking into account indicators from 200 countries: the ecological footprint and the biocapacity of resources. This method of the NGO Global Footprint Network makes it possible to express the combined ecological and environmental problems that humanity is facing. More precisely, Earth Overshoot Day is used to demonstrate the impact of global human activity exceeding the regeneration capacity of the Earth's natural resources by the ecosystems on a yearly scale. But also to make societies aware of this danger to act in time!
The calculation of Earth Overshoot Day or the depletion of resources is a comparative measure between :
- the demand for resources by each individual, actors and stakeholders (communities, companies)
- and the capacity of the Earth to regenerate itself biologically.
This information is taken from the national accounts of each country in terms of ecological footprint by the Californian NGO Global Footprint Network to determine this date.
How can we explain the depletion of resources on Earth Overshoot Day ?
In practice, this overconsumption of resources means for example that man has cut down more trees than grow in a year, or that he consumes excessively the fishing resources, fauna or flora (biodiversity).
Another example that accelerates the depletion of natural resources is deforestation, 27,000 plant and animal species disappear annually because of this scourge. The deforestation of the Amazon in 2021 had prevented the postponement of the date of Earth Overshoot Day because of the release of carbon stored in the forests and the difficult capture of greenhouse gas emissions. Destroying forests and the biodiversity they contain inevitably leads to a decrease in global forest biocapacity.
The depletion of resources due to deforestation and human over-consumption also concerns the extinction of species but also the loss of minerals, fossil fuels and raw materials. Finally, the depletion of resources is explained by the use of surfaces for agriculture, to the detriment of natural biodiversity.
The planet's reserves are not unlimited. Humanity must consume less to allow time for the water cycle to renew itself and for the soil, animals and plants to regenerate. Why has the Earth Overshoot Day evolved over time but also according to the countries?
Why is the Earth Overshoot Day getting earlier and earlier?
Evolution of Earth Overshoot Day: from October 11 in 1990 to August 22 in 2020
In 20 years, the Earth Overshoot Day has advanced by almost 3 months: each year this date falls earlier and earlier. How can this be explained?
Since the 1970's, that day has been advancing irremediably as shown in the graph below:
In 2020, there is a setback of this day by three weeks, this date was respectively calculated for July 29, 2019 and July 28, 2022. This setback was made possible by the global health crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic has inexorably reduced the ecological impact of human activity, a decrease of 14% of the carbon footprint of humanity (mainly emissions of greenhouse gases, industrial gases, ozone, methane or CO2 accounting for 60% in this ecological footprint).
The other main factor responsible for advancing the date of the overrun is biocapacity (forestry). Between 2020 and 2021, these two factors have changed on a global scale, increasing by 6.6% and decreasing by 0.5%.
What do ecological carbon footprint and biocapacity regeneration mean?
The ecological footprint assesses the human demand on ecosystems: it is an important factor in the climate balance, it is the amount of carbon dioxide that each individual emits. It is an indicator influenced by the choices and lifestyle of each individual (means of transport, energy expenditure of the building, waste of renewable resources including mainly food and water consumption). This index measures the amount of land and marine bio-productive surface necessary to produce the goods and services that the world consumes (individual, population. The carbon footprint is also based on the amount of land and ocean to absorb the waste produced, not to mention the resources required for an economic activity, the installation of all its infrastructures and the absorption of its waste, taking into account the available technologies and the resource management practices of the stakeholders.
Biocapacity (forestry) means the capacity of resources to regenerate, through ecosystems, taking into account consumption by humans and for other needs. This second index underlines the regenerative capacity of the biosphere, which is calculated by adding up all the capacities of biologically productive areas. It is the sum per hectare of the forests, grasslands, fields and fisheries of a region.
The ecological deficit indicates a value of the Ecological Footprint that is greater than the biocapacity of a population's territory. On a global scale, the term ecological overshoot is therefore used. This deficit is compensated by the use of biocapacity located outside the territory (imports). Or by a local overuse (degradation of natural capital).
In 2022, it would take 1.8 planets to ensure all the current consumption needs of the world's population and the absorption of resources for one year: by 2030, it would take the resources of two planets.
Currently, we are using 78% more than the planet's ecosystems can regenerate, in 2030 86%.
The environment is degrading and with it the fatal decline of ecosystems. In a responsible approach, all actors must mobilize, populations and local communities, but also associations, companies, etc. A single watchword: ask less of the planet! And take into account the limited capacity of ecosystems to renew biomass.
Good gestures and actions to save the planet
Inequality of ecological deficit between countries
The negative consequences of the Earth Overshoot Day jeopardize the very balance of our civilization. Understanding the issues of the California GFN's Overshoot Day allows us to raise awareness and implement a responsible policy on conserving our resources to understand humanity's impact on the environment and the future of generations.
Postponing the Earth's Overshoot Day is possible, for example by halving carbon emissions to ultimately save 89 days (or three months). To reach the balance between ecological footprint and biocapacity (i.e. to count on our resources until December 31st without being in the red), we must theoretically postpone the date of the Ecological Overflow Day by 5 days each year until 2050.
However, not all inhabitants have the same lifestyle and the impact of each country is very different. The responsibility of each nation is not equal in the advancement of the Earth Overshoot Day. While other countries are blowing up the meter, the others are averaging exceedances in the 1970s to 1980s.
Actors facing the protection of the environment and biodiversity
The resource-predatory economic model has led to the current situation: the model of companies and other actors takes little account of the impacts of activities on natural resources and the future of the population. To turn back the clock, stakeholders must be able to limit CO2 emissions and better protect forests. This global emergency is an integral part of the 17 UN SDGs of September 2015.
Presentation of the actions to postpone the deadline and the 17 UN SDGs
The goal of pushing back the date of resource depletion can obviously be synchronized with the achievement of the UN's SDGs by 2030. Actors actively working in favor of sustainable development participate in this double objective (including with the CSR dynamic which is exclusively addressed to companies and organizations).
Thus, by optimizing the consumption or use of resources, organizations can contribute to eradicating poverty and hunger, while ensuring access to clean energy at an affordable cost. Similarly, this responsible management of resources and ecosystems provides access to clean water and water sanitation facilities for local people.
This good resource management leads to an entrepreneurial policy of responsible production and consumption that respects terrestrial and aquatic life.
The combination of MDGs 9 and 13 with actions to postpone the day of ecological overshoot should make it possible to respond to the challenge of sustainability of the planet.
The developed countries of the North as well as the oil producing and exporting countries have a considerable impact on the depletion of non renewable resources. These countries are at the bottom of the league table with much earlier exceedance dates.
In Africa, companies focused on emerging CSR policy need to engage communities and stakeholders to measure their consumption, raise awareness on wastefulness to avoid early depletion of our common natural resources. Another salutary gesture is recycling and keeping the planet clean (waste sorting and no waste in nature).
Ethical and responsible consumption for companies
The change in production and consumption patterns must be led at the level of companies and their stakeholders (suppliers, local authorities, producers and customers). It is a change at the heart of the economic model of reference of organizations:
- outlawing food waste (by wasting half as much food, we move back 11 days the day of the overrun) and natural resources
- prioritize the local economy (short circuit) and eco-responsible products
- prohibit all chemical products in the manufacturing process
- manage and sort waste (recycling)
- mobilize stakeholders with the periodic campaign of the company's environmental actions.
Ethical management for the contribution of companies
Companies applying an ethical CSR strategy must implement actions to control the consumption of renewable resources: water and energy.
For example, the control of heating (or air conditioning in summer) in the workplace must lead to a reduction in energy consumption and gas emissions. By regulating this consumption by 1 degree in favor of sustainable development, a company already contributes to impacting this good action on the environment. Furthermore, it saves 7% of the energy consumption on the resource count in order to postpone the date of exhaustion. Without forgetting the consequences to be avoided by the condensation in the atmosphere of the polluting energies and the thermal heat.
To reduce their ecological impact, companies and organizations can adopt a policy adapted to sustainable development concerning the means of transport. Indeed, choosing the right mode of transportation and fleet management can reduce the carbon footprint by up to 23%. Limiting air travel, especially for products purchased on the Internet, is another good gesture that will eventually allow us to postpone this day of global warming by 12 days in the year.
What are the norms in favor of postponing the Earth Overshoot Day?
Reducing the negative environmental impact of economic activity is a priority for any responsible company. The company's environmental management system allows it to control its environmental impacts by engaging in a policy of environmental improvement over time. This EMS management system is coordinated around the following ISO standards
- ISO 14001, which certifies an organization's environmental management system [ISO 96-1] and ISO 14004 [ISO 96-2], which establishes guidelines for the use and implementation of the EMS
- ISO 14010 [ISO 96-3], ISO 14011 [ISO 96-4] and ISO 14012 [ISO 96-5] standards defining environmental auditing procedures
- ISO 50001 standard aimed at improving the energy performance of a company.
A voluntary standard, ISO 26000 deals with Corporate Social Responsibility and establishes the main guidelines of this policy.
Support for the implementation of the CSR strategy can be done in conjunction with a company's participation in the Business Social Compliance Initiative BSCI which includes care and protection of the environment in particular and the planet in general. This Business Social Compliance Initiative scheme is built around supporting companies through a code of conduct in their efforts to establish an ethical supply chain between companies and their producers.
Finally, the SMETA 4 pillar certification guarantees the conformity of the evaluation of the ethics and social responsibility of companies. This audit procedure compiles good CSR practices.
Do you want to be part of the change? Make a positive gesture in the balance of the depletion of the world's resources? Let Extrend Consulting accompany you!
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