What is Sustainability?

Paul Downing

Sustainability is a broad term can can mean different things to different people. It tends to encompass the main pillars of environmental, financial and corporate responsibility whereby organisations try to ensure that waste is managed and minimised in a way that means the business is both financially viable as well as “sustainable” i.e. it can keep going without depleting irreversibly natural resources or raw materials.

One of the difficulties many organisations tend to face when developing a sustainability policy or stance is where to focus their activities. As the term is rather vague (although most people knows what the sentiment means) there is always the need to ensure that any resulting policy is relevant to the business, practical to implement and meaningful to those who might care to engage with it.

Several definitions exist such as those offered by  the world council for economic development (WCED) – Sustainable development is that, that meets the needs of the present without compromising the future.

General definitions are all well and good but if you are tasked with developing a sustainability strategy in your business where would you start?

Ask yourself a few simple questions and hopefully this will point you in the right direction.

  • Why are we embarking on developing a sustainability strategy?
  • Who is going to be concerned with our vision?
  • Which of our business operations do we want to be covered by the strategy?
  • Over what time period are we setting our policy?
  • Are we going to compare ourselves to similar organisations?
  • Do we have the commitment to see through our initial objectives?

Once you are clear on why you are developing a sustainability strategy and what it is intended to say and to whom, then you are in a far better position to start completing an initial review and developing your core principles.

Time and again research has shown that organisations who engage in sensible sustainability policies and practices, tend to outperform competitors in terms of employee engagement, PR, financial return, cost control and sense of direction.

If you are in need of a consultant to guide you through the process of developing a sustainability policy, please call us for a no obligation discussion.




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