Sustainability is the latest buzzword in the media. We hear about sustainable living, corporate sustainability, and sustainable farming. But what does it really mean? Is it using LED lights? Taking your shopping bags to the grocery store? Using less water when you shower? Riding your bike instead of driving?
Yes. It’s all of the above plus more. Let’s start by defining sustainability. Simply put, sustainability is creating what we need in the present without causing deleterious effects on future generations meeting their needs. (source)
There are three pillars of sustainability – social, environmental, and economic. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
“A sustainable approach is a systems-based approach that seeks to understand the interactions which exist among the three pillars (environment, social, and economic) in an effort to better understand the consequences of our actions.”
Creating a world with less damage to the environment that sustains communities. We’ve all heard the phrase: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Those three words are aimed to remind us to lessen our consumption, which alleviates pressure, stress, and the carbon load on the environment for future generations. It entails seeking renewable resources to eliminate depleting non-renewable resources. It preserves the natural well-being of the physical world.
How do people in a society or communities live with each other? That’s the basic principle of social sustainability. Within this principle are three concepts. Development sustainability deals with meeting basic needs, equality, and quality of life for everyone. Bridge sustainability focuses on changing behaviors to meet those goals. And maintenance sustainability deals with social acceptance of the social goals.
When businesses strategically use resources and/or assets to achieve balance or profitability over time. Economic sustainability encompasses social and environmental sustainability. This must be achieved through the business’s entire supply chain.
The next time you hear the word sustainability, think of the three pillars. Don’t get me wrong, choosing more energy efficient bulbs, ditching plastics, being water-conscious, and reducing carbon emissions are very important. But also look at the physical and operational practices that are involved in producing goods. Make sure the vitality of the environmental, human and economic aspects are preserved.