Sustainability or being sustainable means meeting our present demands without wasting resources that future generations will need. Along with natural resources, economic and social resources are also needed.
Sustainability is living a life without depleting natural resources for the future. Sustainability is environmentalism, but it also raises economic development and social equity concerns. Here is an example of sustainability: If every office worker in the UK used one less staple every day by replacing it with a reusable paper clip, around 120 tonnes of steel would be saved in a year. Adopting sustainable practices, be it small or large, can have significant long-term impacts.
Where did the term ‘Sustainability’ come from? The term and concept of sustainability is a relatively new one. However, the movement as a whole had its roots in conservationism, social justice, internationalism, and other past movements with rich histories. Coming to the end of the 20th century, several of these ideas had come together to form ‘sustainable development.
The United Nations called on the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1983 to run the newly established ‘World Commission on Environment and Development. Despite several years of efforts to raise living standards through industrialization, several nations still faced extreme poverty. It seemed that industrialization and development at the cost of social equity and environmental health did not lead to prosperous societies.
Learning this, it was now clear that the world needed to find a way to balance ecology and prosperity. The Brundtland Commission released its final report titled- ‘Our Common Future‘ after four years. It defines sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
The Brundtland Commission unified environmentalism with economic and social concerns on the world’s development agenda. Sustainability is often defined as a holistic approach, considering social, ecological, and economic dimensions that recognize that these 3 factors must be considered to find lasting prosperity.
Importance of Sustainability
Sustainability is important, especially today, as it has several short and long-term benefits. We, as humans, cannot protect and maintain the world’s ecosystems or survive in this world if more sustainable choices are not made. If things like development, industrialization, urbanization, consumerism, and more continue to be the same in the future as it is today, the world will gradually run out of fossil fuels, biodiversity will vanish at a rapid pace, and the atmosphere will become irreparably damaged.
Sustainability is the key to a secure and better future. Without sustainable practices, the world will run out of natural resources. It has several benefits, including clean air, nontoxic atmospheric conditions, clean and high-quality water, and growth resources that humans can rely upon.
3 Pillars of Sustainability
Sustainability is generally composed of three pillars- economic, social, and environmental. They are also known informally as people, planet, and profits. They are particularly relevant to corporate sustainability, and the actions businesses and companies take.
Economic sustainability or economic development is the simplest form of sustainability. A company or business must become profitable and produce sufficient energy revenues to continue the business into the future and become economically sustainable. The difficulty with economic sustainability is achieving an equilibrium. Businesses and companies need to attempt to generate profit through other elements of sustainability rather than making money at any cost.
Economic sustainability means human communities around the world are able to maintain independence and have access to resources that they need, financial and others, to meet their needs. Economic activities are available to every person, and economic systems are intact.
Social sustainability or social development involves treating employees properly and fairly and ensuring the ethical, responsible, and sustainable treatment of workers, employees, stakeholders, and the community in which a business operates. Social sustainability can be achieved through responsive benefits like better paternity and maternity benefits, learning opportunities, and flexible scheduling.
Social sustainability is as follows: People with enough resources to keep their community and family safe and healthy are also capable of attaining basic necessities and universal human rights. Healthy communities have righteous leaders who ensure labor, cultural, and personal rights, they are respected, and people are protected from discrimination.
Environmental sustainability or environmental development is the most frequent form discussed. Environmental sustainability concerns itself with reducing carbon footprints, non-decomposable packaging, water usage, and other wasteful processes. These processes can be financially useful, cost-effective, and essential for the environment.
In environmental sustainability, environmental integrity is maintained, and all of the planet’s systems are balanced. At the same time, people consume resources within them at a rate where they are able to replenish themselves.
Just recently, the United Nations announced The Sustainable Development Goals as its main aim for the achievement of a safe, better, and sustainable future. These goals address global challenges to sustainability. They include goals related to eradicating poverty, economic growth, clean water and sanitation, zero hunger, clean energy, and responsible production and consumption. The aim is to achieve these goals by 2030.
The motive behind sustainability is complex, diverse, and personal. It is considered unrealistic to make a list of reasons why several individuals, groups, and communities are working towards this goal. For most people, it is about the kind of future we are leaving for the next generation.
Several people and organizations who demonstrate this value in their policies, daily behaviors, and activities share it as a value. Individuals have played an important role in developing our existing environmental and social circumstances. Today’s generation and future generations need to create solutions and adapt.
Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.