Sustainability. Different, but it will make a difference

By Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

The fact that language constantly evolves is obviously related to how society itself changes and develops. Only a few years ago the verb ‘to sustain’ was seldom used other than to mean lengthening or extending something, such as a discussion, and in a particular application, a musical note. Or, in another context we spoke of having ‘sustained’ an injury.

By 2005 The World Conference on Social Development had not only embraced the concept of what we now know as ‘Sustainability’, but it had gone further in setting down some goals for it. They included ‘economic development, social development and environmental protection’. These three overlapping, but not mutually exclusive, areas have emerged as key factors in defining the concept of Sustainable Development as ‘local and global efforts for basic human needs without destroying or degrading the natural environment’.

Certainly the concept has been embraced in West Norfolk. The King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Green Infrastructure Strategy is unequivocal in stating “We want to safeguard our justly famous natural and historic environment, at the same time making sustainability a central part of our vision. We want to build connections with other local and regional economies, reduce reliance on the car, and prepare ourselves for the challenges of climate change.”

The region faces the twin challenges of environmental protection and commercial growth. A shift towards a sustainable economy represents the way to both. From, specifically, the sustainable energy producers here, to the leading businesses who see the positive benefits of sustainable methods, the region has all the potential to succeed, as have others on the national stage. The Norfolk Chamber of Commerce hosted our fifth conference on Sustainability in Norwich, on June 12 with a line-up of local and national speakers, which was attended by over 350 delegates. This reflects not just the significance of the event, but also the importance, and benefits, of the sustainable economy to today’s business world.

By engaging with sustainable strategies West Norfolk will protect its environment and resources. Embraced by commerce those strategies will also contribute to economic recovery, create employment and help make the region, and the UK, increasingly competitive on the world stage. In short, ‘local and global efforts for basic human needs without destroying or degrading the natural environment’ – the key factor in defining Sustainable Development.

Yes, it’s still relatively new, and different, thinking. But when was Norfolk anything but proud of its ability to ‘do different’?