Sustainability is an expansive concept that applies widely. The definition of sustainability is commonly narrowly defined particularly by entrepreneurs and some members of the business community. The Brundtland commission definition from 1987 definition defines sustainability as follows, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet its needs”.
Many focus exclusively on profitability, at the expense of the other dimensions of sustainability. However, profitability is only one of the three pillars of the so called three legged stool of sustainability (people, planet and profits). While no one can deny the importance of profitability, some fail to recognize how the other 5 elements of sustainability can also contribute to or detract from the bottom line.
The three legged stool can be further subdivided into six overlapping sub-components of sustainability.
Commercial sustainability is largely about the importance of generating a profit to sustain a company’s viability. Environmental sustainability is about the environmental impacts associated with a business while ecological sustainability is about the impacts on bio diversity. Economic sustainability is a reflection of the market’s ability to carry a business while social sustainability deals with the social impacts of a business. Finally regulatory sustainability is about being onside with government regulations and laws.
These components are interrelated so failing to address even one aspect can have adverse unforeseen consequences.
Understanding Sustainability: Forging a Comprehensive Definition
Sustainability (Sustainable) Defined
Sustainable Business as Defined by Paul Hawken
Sustainable Development Defined
Sustainable Production Defined
Primer on Four Economic Systems and their Environmental Implications
Environmental Implications of Three Types of Economies: Brown, Blue and Green
Should Green Apply to the Brown Economy?