What does sustainability really mean?
When we talk about sustainability, we often focus on greenhouse gas emissions. We focus on reporting our carbon emissions and we focus on the term net zero.
Sustainability isn’t just about net zero or carbon emissions.
Sustainability is multi-faceted and has many definitions.
One of the most cited definitions of sustainable development comes from the Brundtland Commission in 1987.
Defining sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own need”.
Nearly all definitions of sustainability address environmental problems through economic and societal lenses. Ensuring our economic and societal actions are not at the detriment of the environment.
Which leads to businesses talking about sustainability as the triple bottom line. A term coined by John Elkington in 1994 which enables businesses to not only focus on profit but also the people and the planet. Ensuring all three are addressed and aligned to enable the creation of a sustainable business.
The foundation of sustainability is the three pillars. Environment, society and economy. But our world has become much more complex since the original definitions.
So why am I mentioning this?
Well, we often focus on carbon emissions and net zero as they are hot topics, does that make a company sustainable?
Wider things matter; employee wellbeing, training and skills, modern slavery, the local community in which they operate, ethical practices etc. These are all fundamental to operating a sustainable company. As well as your company policy, the culture and business behaviours. This needs to stretch beyond your own four walls deep into your supply chain. Working with likeminded and sustainably sound businesses.
Sustainable business needs to be the new norm. Sustainable businesses will become the new norm because to be successful, they need good people.
Good people want to work for companies with strong sustainability credentials. In 2020, a Reuters survey of 2,000 UK workers found 72% were concerned about the environment and 65% said they are more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies.
I think these percentages will have increased three years later with a greater pressure on businesses to start adopting better environmental and social policies.
What else do you believe makes a sustainable business?
If you have any thoughts on this or any other sustainability topic, please email me or find me on LinkedIn.