Sustainability (or trying to define what it is!)

I’m often asked by friends, family and colleagues, ‘what sector do you work in?’ and my stock answer is sustainability. Over the years I have noticed that some people understand what this is, and some do not. I have also been called a tree hugger in the past, one person has said ‘oh you do green stuff then!’ and others have said ‘that’s nice’!

As sustainability is such a broad discipline, I thought I would try and give a brief definition that hopefully will lead people into further reading and research about the wide-ranging reach of sustainability.

So, what is sustainability? 

One of the more common definitions that you may come across (on numerous websites) is:

‘Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.’

Ok, so now we have our definition, but it doesn’t explain how and where sustainability fits into our everyday lives.

The three pillars!

The concept of sustainability is based generally around three ‘pillars’:

Economic  – so here we are getting into the realms of P&L, ethical businesses, politics and policy etc

Environmental – protecting the planet, conservation, reduction in energy consumption etc

Social – social value, social engagement, reducing poverty, health and wellbeing, equality etc

The three pillars are also referred to as profits, planet and people.

With me so far….. its not an easy topic to fit into a specific pigeonhole.  On top of the definition and the three pillars concept we also need to factor in people’s behaviour and beliefs, attitudes towards the environment and each other. For instance, environmentalists have a different viewpoint to ecologists who have a different stance to say an economist (more on this in later blogs!).

So hopefully this blog will have helped a little with understanding what sustainability is (or just added to the confusion!) and hopefully I will pick up some of the above concepts in other blogs but for now  I will quote a well known saying from Lloyd Lee ‘green is a trend, sustainability is a mindset’

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