Section 3 – Environmental & Sociological Factors

Resources, Alternatives & Limitations

The Changing Nature of Resources

Physical Resources

Human Resources

Finance Resources

Geographical Influences

Natural Resources

Human Resources



Government Legislation

Environmental Impact Studies (EIS)

Sustainable Development


Life Cycle Analysis

Resources, alternatives and limitations

The changing nature of resources:
Businesses still obtain most of their resource inputs from the external environment, but the resources are constantly changing in nature.
Resource input fluctuations such as natural resources, manufactured resources and financial resources can cause changes in the internal environment of a business.

Physical Resources:
These physical resources include land, water, climate raw materials, processed inputs and equipment.

Many businesses such as those engaged in manufacturing and rural activities, use considerable amounts of physical resources.

These can change in terms of their cost and availability, and lead to subsequent changes in production and also the renegotiations of contracts or the use of alternative suppliers.

Human Resources
Any change to the number; organization or nature of human resource inputs to a business, including management decisions and the support of original thinking can bring about dramatic change to its internal environment.

Workers are now better educated, more flexible, more mobile, less unionised, and increasingly multiskilled. There are also more women in the workforce, and a larger number of part-time workers.

Finance Resources
The availability and cost of finance is a key input which can determine whether:

A new enterprise can commence operation

An existing business expands its operations

The introduction of more efficient techniques can be financed.
Whether financing is internal (equity) or external (debt financing), it can have a sustained effect on the firm's internal environment (e.g. servicing of loans should come from the firm's own cash flow).
If this falls short and the firm is unable to refinance the loan it may be forced to sell off some of its assets to meet its loan requirements.

Geographic influences

Geographic factors can cause changes to either the resource inputs of a business or to its markets.
Natural Resources:
If properly managed, the supply of resources  such  as  plantation timbers and farm products can be sustained  indefinitely. 
Resources such  as mineral deposits however have a limited life. Those supplies which can be most cheaply mined, processed or made available to industry get used  up first. 
Unless technological developments intervene, as happened with surface mining, businesses will look for alternative sources or alternative commodities.

Human Resources:
As they can alter the market, demographic factors need to be considered. They include changes to the population's size and its characteristics.

Changes that will be of interest to businesses include age, gender; cultural background, family size and characteristics, occupations and income levels.

Australia's population is continually increasing and its structure changing. The population is aging, with around 14 per cent presently being over 65 years (4 per cent in 1901 ).


Recycling involves reprocessing materials into new products, for example, car tyres into paving blocks and also reusing products in their existing state, for example, plastic bags used to carry things over and over.

Pollution of the environment occurs through the solid, liquid and gaseous by-products of industry.

Solid waste ends up in landfill and the costs to industry of storage, transport and disposal are quite substantial.

Liquid waste (effluent) contaminates waterways and has ecological consequences on wildlife and the health of the surrounding communities.

Air pollution from emissions affects the health of communities, depletes the ozone layer and reduces air quality in a region.

Environmental Impact Studies (EIS)

An environmental impact study (EIS) is the detailed study of the potential effects of a designated development on the local environment.

Environmental impact studies should assess the existing site and conditions and evaluate the anticipated impacts on the flora, fauna, economy, historical and social factors of the new development.

All high impact developments require an EIS, for example, agricultural produce industries, electrical generating stations, marinas and other shoreline facilities and wood and saw milling works.
An EIS is important to avoid damage to a local area in terms of its ecology, air and water quality and to ensure long-term sustainable, minimal impact development.

Sustainable development
Satisfying the material needs (food, housing, clothing, infrastructure, energy, etc.) of the world's growing population requires the continual use of the Earth's renewable and non-renewable resources.

Ensuring that these resources are utilised responsibly, now and into the future, requires governments, industries and individuals to manage development in an ecologically sustainable manner.


If a design uses resources that can be replaced by natural processes in a relatively short space of time, (within the lifetime of  the  average  person),  such  as  plantation timber, it is considered to be using renewable resources and therefore the design is using sustainable resources.
Non-sustainable energy sources (resources)  are  those  that  have finite reserves, for example, coal, oil  and  natural  gas. 
These fuels cannot be replaced once they are used up. A designer may choose to use an alternative energy source such as solar, wind, tidal, biomass,
Energy is used to create, produce, market and consume designs. The amount of energy used is directly dependent on the value of the end product.

Life Cycle Analysis
Life cycle analysis refers to the analysis of a design at all stages, from conception to disposal (cradle to grave), to determine the total cost in terms of resource usage. The resources include human (people, energy, skills) and non-human (finance, time, tools). The designer may use a life cycle analysis to predict the short- and long-term consequences of the planned design. Every design has an environmental impact, but in the framework of responsible design, less is better.