Sustainability is the capability to continuously conduct certain activities indefinitely. The study of sustainability is evolving and is often viewed in three dimensions known as the Three Pillars of Sustainability.
- Environmental Sustainability is:
The capability of the globe to sustain levels of pollution, nonrenewable resource depletion, and renewable harvesting proceeding on an indefinite continuum.
These environmental sustainability parameters are:
- Nonrenewable resources. The depletion rate is lower than the rate of development of renewable substitutes for the equivalent resources
- Renewable resources. The rate of regeneration should exceed the harvest rate
- The capacity of our environment to absorb waste should exceed the degree of waste being generated
- Economic Sustainability:
The capability of an economy to indefinitely sustain definitive levels of production
- Social Sustainability:
The ability of human systems to indefinitely operate at a definitive level of harmony and social wellbeing. Genocide, corruption, systemic poverty, illiteracy are examples of socially unstable systems
Limitations of Global Sustainability Management:
Most Sustainability Management Programs do not focus on managing all three pillars of sustainability. The emphasis is usually on one of the pillars at the expense of the other two.
Table 1, Focus of influential Sustainability Organizations
Benefits of leveraging Sustainability Programs:
- Investment Opportunities. Many organizations enhance their access to investment capital solely because they have sustainability programs
- Leverage of Innovation. To accomplish excellence in all three pillars of sustainability is a formidable task many organizations like Levi’s Strauss and Ikea are leveraging innovative processes to realize excellence in economic, environmental, and social sustainability
- Competitive Advantage. The demand for sustainable products and services is an increasing trend and a major requirement to realize a competitive advantage
- Engagement of the Workforce. Leveraging social sustainability in the workplace in the form of flexible schedules, safe and ergonomic workspaces, meaningful work, and effective rewards and recognition programs often result in highly engaged, inspired employees. Approximately 85% of the workforce in the United States is not engaged in their work. One can imagine the economic impact of this phenomena
- Cost Reduction. Each of the three pillars of sustainability is an opportunity for cost reduction and avoidance.
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