What Is Sustainability?
Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The concept of sustainability is composed of three pillars: economic, environmental, and social—also known informally as profits, planet, and people. Increasingly, companies are making public commitments to sustainability through actions like reducing waste, investing in renewable energy, and supporting organizations that work toward a more sustainable future.
Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
How Sustainability Works
Sustainability encourages businesses to frame decisions in terms of environmental, social, and human impact for the long-term, rather than on short-term gains such as next quarter’s earnings report. It influences them to consider more factors than simply the immediate profit or loss involved. Increasingly, companies have issued sustainability goals such as commitment to zero-waste packaging by a certain year, or to reduce overall emissions by a certain percentage.
These companies can achieve their sustainability needs by cutting emissions, lowering their energy usage, sourcing products from fair-trade organizations, and ensuring their physical waste is disposed of properly and with as small a carbon footprint as possible.
Challenges Around Sustainability
The push for sustainability is evident in areas such as energy generation where the focus has been on finding new deposits to outpace the drawdown on existing reserves. Some electricity companies, for example, now publicly state goals for energy generation from sustainable sources such as wind, hydropower, and solar.
Many of the companies that are most sensitive to consumer backlash, usually retailers and restaurants, have announced sustainability plans to reduce carbon footprints, packaging waste, and animal suffering.
This has caused some investors to shy away from sustainable investments—at least until companies become more transparent with their financial and business practices.