The Industrial Revolution brought about rapid advancements which shaped the world we live in today. New developments resulted in significant improvements in public health, social communications, energy usage and sanitation. However this came at a cost – many of the environmental issues we now face are due to fossil fuels and mass production, which were introduced by the Industrial Revolution. We are now entering a ‘green’ era, with a focus on reducing carbon emissions. Businesses have corporate sustainability goals and are using renewable energy sources such as solar power, more than ever before. Mypower explains that “A low carbon footprint is so important for businesses in the modern world. With a solar PV installation, companies will be able to demonstrate their commitment to a sustainable future and gain competitive advantages over peers when tendering for business.”
Below, we are going to look at the Industrial Revolution, its effects, and ways businesses can contribute towards a sustainable global economy.
The Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution is a term used to describe significant advancements in the industrial sector during the 18th and 19th centuries. The rapid changes were brought about by the developments of machines and the discovery of new sources of power, which resulted in the construction of factories and mass production.
The First Industrial Revolution represents a time where man began to understand and use different energy sources, resulting in a growth of industries such as iron, coal and textiles. Historians have labeled the years from 1870-1914 as the period of the Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technology Revolution. This was a period of rapid industrial development, where the world witnessed a shift towards the use of fossil fuels such as coal and gas. There were huge advancements in manufacturing and transport, and new technological systems were introduced, most significantly electrical power and telephones.
The Second Industrial Revolution brought about massive advancements in technology and dramatically changed every aspect of human life, however, this had a number of adverse effects on our environment. According to the environmental experts at Ecology “it was fossil fuels such as coal that fueled the Industrial Revolution. While this propelled human progress to extraordinary levels, it came as an extraordinary cost to our environment.”
The Green Revolution
It is now evident the Industrial Revolution led to many of the world’s current environmental problems – unsafe levels of air and water pollution, climate change, overflowing amounts of waste on land and in the ocean, and deforestation.
However we have the opportunity to help fix these environmental issues. What is known as ‘The Green Industrial Revolution’ started to emerge at the end of the 20th century, with the aim to replace carbon-generated power with renewable energy. Businesses across all industrial sectors began to look at ‘green issues’ such as energy efficiency and renewable energy.
With a growing focus on the environment, businesses in a wide range of industries started adopting the practice of sustainability reporting. Sustainability reporting is defined by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) as “the practice of measuring, disclosing, and being accountable to internal and external stakeholders for organizational performance toward the goal of sustainable development.” This includes efforts to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, the size of the business’s carbon footprint, and the overall use of natural resources by the business.
Where once sustainability disclosure was only adopted by a few green or community-oriented companies, today it is a best practice employed by companies worldwide. Sustainability reporting enhances companies’ accountability for their impacts and can help them to measure and understand their environmental performance, and then set goals to manage change more effectively. Sustainability reporting shows commitment to sustainable development which enhances the reputation of a company and gives it an edge over competitors.
The benefits of using renewable energy such as solar power are now widely recognised and electricity generation from renewable sources has increased rapidly in the UK. A decade ago it provided virtually nothing; but renewable energy now makes up nearly a third of all electricity generated in the UK. Switching to renewable energy is a great way for businesses to save money, reduce their carbon footprint and meet their corporate sustainability goals.
Revolutions are a result of humankind’s desire to develop, expand, and grow. The Industrial Revolution brought about rapid advancements that transformed human life for the better. However these advancements had consequences and our environment suffered as a result. Fortunately, the world is moving toward the Green Industrial Revolution. A new era of sustainability and carbonless energy generation will allow the planet to heal and set us on course towards achieving a sustainable global economy.