Turkey: Where Does Sustainability Start?

Last Updated: 14 September 2016
Article by İzel Levi Coşkun

This is a question I ask myself very often as a CEO. If sustainability is thinking about the future; if it means observing the interests of the whole system rather than your own interests and making long-term plans that are shaped by the life we live today; if it means taking into account social and environmental impact with every step we make, where should we start?

I try not to disregard entrepreneurship in trying to find the answer to this question. The main reason for this is that entrepreneurship starts off with an idea which is then followed by efforts to transform... However doing this can only be possible through taking an action. Without action, there will be no transformation. And if our aim is to take an action within a framework of sustainability, we must make ensure that any transformation will result in social and environmental benefits.

When I was a little boy, my grandfather often used to warn me:

"İzel, your words and actions will always have an impact. You must never utter a word or perform an act without thinking about how it will make the other party feel or react. Always think first..."

Of course back then I did not know that this was the definition of "empathy." The question now is, "Do we empathise with human beings only?" Is the human being the limit of interaction?

As people we are partly able to empathise with other people but what about doing the same with other beings that we interact with?

James Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis of the 1970s postulates that living and non-living parts of the earth co-exist in interaction. According to the hypothesis the co-existence of living and non-living things, each of which are indispensable, make up the biosphere, which refers to the field where life exists on earth. Well, then, is humankind, who lives within a spiral of consumption under the false impression that it sits in the centre of all things, able to think for a moment about how any action it will carry out will impact other beings?

Probably because everything is produced in ever-larger quantities as a result of our infatuation with the concept of growth, we tend to think that we have the right to use more of everything, all the time. No problem, there is lots more. Alternatively, we try to console ourselves by saying "Well, if I don't consume, someone else will," thus trying to escape the responsibility that is assigned to us by reality itself. Yet if we thought of the things we consume as an indispensable part of our field of interaction as the hypothesis above suggests, will we still have the tendency to consume as much? The electricity we use unnecessarily, water we use for pleasure, the extra kitchen roll sheets we use to wipe our hands, the food we leave on our plate, carbon emission caused by driving a car with one passenger rather than using public transport... These are all things we do not normally bother to think about in daily life, things that we externalise. However they all fall within our field of interaction... Are we aware that we, ourselves, are also busily being consumed when we take all this to be within the context of a cycle of sustainability?

The speed of production and consumption in the last 50 to 60 years caused us to get into the habit of thinking less and putting empathy aside, thus searching for answers outside rather than within... Let's take the examples I have given above: is there an energy deficit? Let's produce more energy. Is our mobile phone getting old? Let's buy a new one. Are existing roads not enough anymore? Let's build new roads, viaducts, bridges. Are we running short of water? Let's get water from somewhere else. Profitability going down? Let's grow further.

We are so blinded by our habits that we seem to fail what stands before us, let alone be able to think long-term. Here is the problem: whilst we focus on "more" we fail to see what the real cause of the problem is. Why do we have an energy deficit? Why is not there enough water? Is that because we are growing without thinking about the impact we have hopelessly externalised? Can it be because we fail to use energy and water efficiently? If both, what part does growth play in this? What part does inefficiency play?

All these questions point to a single action. They point to a magic word which stands very close to us but has been put aside due to the speed and extent of consumption over the years: "saving." In my opinion being saving- conscious is definitely where sustainability starts. What lies behind saving-consciousness is the acknowledgment that we access most of what we see around us by consuming our resources at an ever-faster rate. Unfortunately the earth, air and ourselves are a part of what we are consuming.

What, then, do we do to turn the idea of saving into an action in our business?

Firstly we have replaced "sustainable growth" with "sustainable development". The reason for such replacement is that sustainable development requires long-term planning. While making long-term plans we need to act in consideration of the interests of all our shareholders, including our rivals, and to think about the future of our ecosystem. We try to make sure that we take into account social and environment impact with every step we take. Surely this forms the philosophical dimension of the approach we adopt and everyone involved has to believe in this philosophy and feel that they play an indispensable part in our developmental goal. While defining that goal I imagine that there are circles of interaction between us and all other beings around us. The radius of the first circle contains things at arm's length. What can they be? Our computer, mobile phone, pens, notebooks and so forth. I study the way we use these things. To give a few simple examples, do we use our computers and mobile phones economically when we use their memory or modes? How about the pen and paper we use?

The larger circle may contain switches, window handles or a plant in our room. An even larger interaction circle contains our colleagues. This time we pay attention to the kind of interaction and transformation that is created. We must keep in mind that time is also a part of saving. Are we able to contribute to time-saving through sharing? Are we able to establish balance between an employee with a very packed schedule and one whose schedule is lighter? We must bear in mind that the goal here is not to observe our own interests but to think about the interests of the whole system, which makes sharing and cooperation very important...

It is possible to expand these interaction circles to fit companies, industries or countries. What is critically important here is to start interaction at the most proximate, accessible and transformable concrete point, and to feel that we are interacting with each and every being. We need to establish a causal link and think about the positive and negative effects of our actions on the beings that the circle of interaction contains. What we do then is to watch the circles expand like rings caused by stones thrown on water, and to think of Africa's "ubuntu": I am because you are...

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions