Business leaders across the globe and industries are implementing innovative strategies aimed at promoting sustainability within their business operations. Within our ever-evolving climate crisis, integrating sustainable practices into a business has never been more important.
For a business to be sustainable, it must provide economic development, social development, and environmental protection according to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These measures ensure corporations don’t take more resources than they actually need—allowing future generations to thrive on Earth’s limited resources.
Though simple on paper, successfully implementing sustainable business strategies has been a consistent challenge for businesses of all sizes. Conflict can arise in defining what sustainability means for a business’ success. Yet, by identifying clear and attainable goals and formulating a winning strategy to achieve set objectives, a compelling strategy can arise.
To help mitigate and address these challenges, identifying what sustainability means in business is key.
What is Sustainability in Business?
Sustainability in business refers to meeting the needs of consumers and shareholders without depleting natural resources.
For businesses to positively impact the environment and society, they must dedicate time and money toward developing strategies that satisfy the three pillars of sustainability.
What are the Three Pillars of Sustainability?
The three pillars of sustainability, set by the United Nations, are economic, social, and environmental. Understanding the three pillars helps businesses coordinate and meet economic, social, and environmental demands to ensure ethical and ongoing success.
The three pillars of sustainability are also known as people, planet, and profit. To successfully implement sustainable practices, businesses ought to make sure these three pillars are in harmony.
1. Economic Development
- Economic development is commonly known as the efforts made by businesses to generate profits. Without profits, a business cannot sustain its operations. Failure to produce profits can leave a negative impact on job creation—another measure of economic development.
- However, businesses must be responsible and effectively allocate their resource. That way, the environment is not harmed in the process of reaching financial goals.
- Striving for a high level of economic development involves strategically balancing the interest of a company’s shareholders and the community. While the main objective of economic development is typically to maximize profits, businesses must also address important environmental issues. Today, several business leaders are utilizing the power to adopt sustainability initiatives to further drive business success.
2. Social Development
- Social development ensures responsible, ethical, and safe treatment of employees, shareholders, and consumers. Sustainable social development typically manifests itself as providing fair wages and a safe and positive working environment.
3. Environmental Protection
- Environmental protection is top of mind for many executives. In an IMD study, 62% of executives consider environmental protection necessary to be competitive in today’s changing markets. This pillar is measured by the reduction of wasteful processes, water usage, and carbon footprints. These processes are often cost-effective if implemented correctly, giving any business a competitive edge in their industry.
Providing economic and social development while saving the environment is frequently referred to as the Triple Bottom Line. It’s a business’ approach that measures a company’s financial performance and its impact on society and the environment—rather than solely focusing on generating the greatest amount of profits.
Historically, businesses have been the biggest contributors to climate change. Today, however, purpose-driven leaders are placing initiatives to drive positive change. Regardless of size, all businesses have the opportunity to contribute towards a better tomorrow.