What Is Sustainability in Business? | EnergyLink

What Is Sustainability in Business?

Business sustainability is often defined as managed the triple bottom line: a process by which companies manage their financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities.

These three impacts are sometimes referred to as profits, people, and planet.

However, this approach relies on an accounting based perspective and does not fully capture the time element that is inherent within business sustainability. A more robust definition is that business sustainability represents resiliency over time – businesses that can survive shocks because they are intimately connected to healthy economic, social, and environmental systems.

These businesses create economic value and contribute to healthy ecosystems and strong communities.

Social Impact

  • Working with innovative business associations
    • A growing number of trade associations and business networks are issuing environmental performance guidelines, preparing education materials on environmental and social issues, and holding seminars on subjects of interest
  • Tap the expertise of non-profit organizations
    • Non-profit organizations have a wealth of expertise to share with business. Although some adopt an adversarial stance towards the business community, many others are open and willing to participate in collaborative efforts
  • A commitment to community development efforts
    • Although many companies still measure their contribution to the community by the size of the check they write to local charities, a growing number are engaged in more active forms of community work
  • Have fun, stay healthy, and enjoy your work
    • “Burn-out” is a common complaint among employees, but some low-cost, innovative changes in business practices can help reduce the risk

Economic Impact

Broadly speaking, sustainable business development involves the application of sustainability principles to business operations. Sustainability in this can mean a variety of things: ecological sustainability, social sustainability or even sustained economic growth.

As such, the sustainable business movement is a component of the broader movement toward corporate social responsibility. Interests in this area is reflected in the growing number of business organizations exploring these issues, the large number of related websites, journal and book publications, academic programs in business schools, etc.

Even the financial sector is involved, by establishing standards for lending criteria regarding environmental protection and sustainable development, by developing indices for sustainable business practices and developing environmentally oriented investment opportunities.

Environmental Impact

Amid rising awareness of the impact businesses can have on the environment, companies of every size and type have begun implementing environmental sustainability initiatives. Many organizations have introduced recycling programs and made efforts to reduce their carbon emissions as a way to mitigate the adverse effects of their business processes.

Implementing environmentally sustainable practices and green supply chain management has the potential to eliminate waste and generate cost savings, leading to a stronger bottom line. In addition, with many consumers committed to “going green,” eco-friendly businesses often benefit from favorable public opinion and greater customer loyalty.

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