Sustainability is the process that focuses on meeting the needs and wants of the present without the compromise of future generations to meet their needs. There is no single agreed and universally applicable definition of sustainability, or in other words, there are multiple definitions of sustainability.
There are numerous ways and views on how it can be achieved. So if we dissect the word, sustain means to hold up or to give support. Then sustainability is something that can be bearable as well as capable of being continued at a level. Sustainability can be seen as something with the help of which something kept at a certain level.
There are three fundamental pillars on which the concept of sustainability is built upon – environmental, social and economic – which is also known as Planet, People and Profits. These three pillars or principles were first defined by John Elkington, who authored the book ‘Cannibals with Forks’. He argued that companies should start to consider a triple bottom line on which they can thrive in the long run.
While this is being considered, the companies, customers and citizens should also find the long term damage which is caused on the environment by short term profits.
These days sustainability is linked only with climate change, but there are many factors with which sustainability can be linked. Let us have a look at those sustainability pillars.
Pillars of Sustainability
It was agreed in 2005 at the World Summit on Social Development that three significant areas contribute to the social science and philosophy of sustainable development. These pillars or characteristics are economic development, social development and environmental protection.
1. Economic Development
Most of the people disagree over and argue the political ideology, saying what is good for the economy and what is not. They also were given the fact that how is that affect the business and their jobs and employability.
Economic development is about providing incentives for the company as well as some other organizations which followed the sustainability guidelines. This should be seen as an added effort from the part of the organization.
To encourage and foster incentives for everyone who does their part in sustainability, the person should be appropriately recognized so that he stays motivated on the excellent work. One person can achieve very little, but if taken as a group, then the effects add up.
It is observed that the supply and demand market is consumerist, and multiple resources are required for modern life for every single person. We consume a lot during our lifetime, and not everything is good for our environment.
Economic development is about offering people what they want without them compromising the quality of life, reducing the financial burden on the lower class. This is especially true in the developing world.
2. Social development
The pillar of social development has multiple facets. Most importantly is the protection of the health of people from different kinds of pollution and other business activities which are harmful.
In Europe and North America and the rest of the developed world that is robust implementation and check of programmes which ensures that the health of people and their health are protected.
It is also about having as well as maintaining access to necessary resources without compromising the quality of life. Sustainable housing, for example, is one of the most critical topics for many people right now.
The question is, how can we build better homes and live in a home which is made from sustainable material. Educating people is the only solution in it. Encouraging people to take part in sustainable development and environmental sustainability and also to teach them about the advantages of protecting the environment is a part of sustainable development.
It is also about warning them about the dangers if the situation is not protected correctly. Social development is one of the essential aspects of sustainability.
3. Environmental protection
Everybody is aware of what they need to do to protect the environment. It may include reducing the consumption of power, recycling, or using, switching off the mobile devices instead of keeping them on standby, walking the short journeys instead of driving there, etc. Businesses should regulate their position and manage their consumption.
They should try to keep their carbon emissions as low as possible. Government is offering incentives on having renewable power sources in businesses as the weather is in our homes. Environmental protection and therefore is the third and one of the crucial pillars of sustainability. Environmental protection is one of the major concerns of the future of humanity.
Environmental protection defines how we should protect our ecosystems, improve our air quality, minimize the use of natural resources or re-use them, etc. It also defines how we can use technology in a better way to have a better output and how we can derive sustainability and a greener future from it.
It is found out that biotechnology and developing technology is the key to our sustainability in protecting the environment from the potential damage in the future. While technological advances are harming the environment, ironically it is technological development only which could protect it.
4. Working of Sustainability
Businesses are encouraged by sustainability to make decisions about the social, human and environmental impact on the long term rather than short term gains. It helps companies to consider more factors than focusing on immediate profit or loss. Many companies and multinationals have started sustainability goals like a minimum waste of water, plastic ban, substituting paper with digital media, etc.
These organizations can achieve their needs by reducing emissions and reducing their energy usage. They have to ensure minimal waste is produced from their offices and factories, and that waste is disposed of correctly. This is to provide to have a minimum carbon footprint.
Different types of sustainability
1. Sustainability in Technology
Use of mobile phones has skyrocketed in the past decade. There one or more than one cell phone person and that is a lot of metal. These devices are made from minerals which are found in the earth, and mining is hazardous for the environment. To reduce this, ensure that you use your devices for a long time instead of changing them every year as the new model is launched.
Also ensuring that the device is disposed of correctly will reduce the contamination in the environment. It is rumoured that sustainability will soon be beginning in lithium-ion batteries being installed in cars instead of fuels.
Replacing or char
ging batteries will be the new method of powering up your cars. Many companies have started to re-use their old products to produce more unique products. For example, Apple has manufactured many of its iPhones of 2019, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro from the old phone. This has led to a win-win situation for both customers and the company. The customers enjoyed reduced cost of the newer iPhones, and the company gained better profitability.
2. Sustainability in Fashion
Fashion aims to deliver low-cost fashion at earliest. Nevertheless, the issue with the fashion industry is its negative environmental impact. On one side, the fashion industry uses toxic chemicals which cause water pollution and contaminates the soil if they are disposed of.
On the other hand, many clothes are made from synthetic fibres which, if washed, escape in the sea as microplastics and pollute the land and the sea.
It is expected that the company makes clothes with resistant materials which can use cotton produced sustainably. It is expected to apply the principle of circular economy in its value chain, and it should have minimal toxic chemicals. Also, being socially responsible is classified as sustainability, and it is observed that the fashion industry is not very trustworthy.
If you look closely, then you may notice that most of the clothes are made in Vietnam, China or Bangladesh. There is not the only pollution while transporting these products, but the workforce who produce these clothes are also a problem.
Not only do they get paid very less, but they also work and live in terrible conditions. Their social situation has hardly improved, and they keep on functioning most of the time simply to pay bills and to survive.
3. Sustainability in Transportation
Greenhouse gas emissions are the most from transportation, and they are mostly because of cars. Ships and trucks also contribute to the emissions, but contrary to popular belief, the percentage of emissions from them is minimal.
It is suggested to use the option of carpooling – travelling with 4 – 5 people to the office every day, using public transport like metros, etc. are a few options which can increase sustainability in transport. Some countries like the Netherlands use bicycles which increases sustainability even further.
Development of cars which are run on alternative sources of fuel like electric cars is being promoted by most of the governments. It saves money as well as reduces pollution. For businesses, transportation is most crucial for delivering the product to a customer.
But opening a place close to the factory or manufacturing plant will reduce travel time to improve the sustainability further.
4. Sustainability in the Food industry
It is recommended that every company working in the food industry should try to grow their crops with minimal usage of toxic pesticides. It should focus on organic bio farming which pollutes the environment very less compared to the other methods of farming.
Paying minimum wages to workers is also not expected from the farm owners since people are also an essential pillar of sustainability. The wastage from restaurants is one of the biggest problems, especially in developed countries.
Restaurants have to tie up with waste management services so that the leftover food can be re-used to feed the hungry.
5. Sustainability at the Workplace:
The workplace should be organized sustainably. For example, the companies who swear on new technologies and try to become paperless.
They also provide adequate working conditions for their employees, and they try to re-use a lot of material minimizing the waste. Using minimum electricity – that is opening blinds to let the sunlight inside, reduces power consumption.
6. Sustainability in operations and value chain:
A company which consumes very high electric energy like steel manufacturers have to be economically viable. Installing solar panels will not only reduce the cost of power consumption and reduce the power consumption itself but also power most of its operations with sustainable energy.
It would be a medium investment but would yield higher returns for the organization in the long run. Using renewable sources of energy is vital for most of the organizations since running them on fossil fuels is not an idea which will survive in the long term.
Goals of Sustainability
The sustainable development network acts, things and works globally. It is abbreviated as SDG. The SDG came up with a few items which are called as the primary goals of sustainability. They are as follows:
- End the hunger and poverty
- Provide better standards of healthcare and education especially when it comes to sanitation and water quality
- Achieving gender equality
- Sustainable growth of the economy while promoting jobs as well as stronger economies
- Tackling the adverse effects of climate change and position along with other environmental factors which can harm to the lives and livelihoods of people.
- Sustainability to include health of air, land and sea.
Sustainability is not a responsibility, but the duty of every individual towards the earth and fellow individuals. It is something that the present generation owes to future generations so that they can enjoy the planet that we could.