Nowadays, consumers expect companies to act responsibly, protect the environment, nurture people and communities, and make their business practices transparent.
Companies are growing more aware of the impact of sustainability. By reducing the harmful effects of their activities on the natural environment and global communities, they foster greater trust.
Talking about sustainability
When a company implements the principles of sustainability, it brings an array of benefits, economically and socially. Not only do responsible companies bolster their reputation as good stewards of the planet, but they could also potentially improve their financial performance and help them earn their social license to operate.
Many corporations measure their sustainability efforts by monitoring environmental, social responsibility, and governance (ESG) data. The principles of sustainability and sustainability reporting enable companies to highlight their stewardship toward creating a better planet.
The key principles of sustainability are fundamental because they aim to preserve the quality of life for future generations while also making room for economic impact in present times.
What are the principles of sustainability?
The three pillars of sustainability are environmental, social, and economic. In the business and investment world, sustainability is often used interchangeably with the term ESG where the G dimension focuses on business leadership and structure. The concept of sustainability is based on three key pillars:
- The environmental pillar focuses on lowering carbon footprint, reducing harmful waste, preserving natural resources, and using renewable energy. While each positively affects the natural world, they can also generate positive economic benefits.
- The social pillar concentrates on improving the lives of employees, local communities, and all of society. Some examples of that include treating workers well and acting as good community members on a local and global scale.
- The economic pillar directly refers to the economic viability or economic environment. It entails good governance, risk management, and compliance in any business or economic setting. Sustainable governance can mean demonstrating transparency in annual reports or paying close attention to the interests of stakeholders or the local population.
Because of sustainable development’s long-term significance, in 2015, the UN adopted a 2030 agenda with 17 sustainable goals. The sustainable development goals prioritized safeguarding the environment, bridging inequality, and eradicating poverty. Targets include gender equality, clean water, strong health and well-being of individuals, climate action, poverty and hunger, and more.
To follow the principles of sustainability, companies must adhere to environmental science and the most accurate data. Reporting accurate statistics relating to climate change and a corporation’s carbon footprint is essential in making the planet a better place for all inhabitants.
Being sustainable has its benefits
While the principles of sustainability highlight what each pillar focuses on, they also offer companies several benefits.
Reduces energy-related costs: Water and energy expenses are significant issues in manufacturing, but implementing various sustainable practices can help reduce those costs while protecting the environment. Deploying solar or wind power reduces a company’s carbon footprint and lowers monthly power bills, while minimizing packaging may lower costs and clear space in a warehouse for other essential functions. For example, regularly recycling and moving to paperless practices saves money on supplies while limiting consumption.
Attracts customers and increases sales: A positive corporate image helps boost sales, and sustainability is an excellent way to achieve that. Consumers, nowadays, care about the environment more than ever and increasingly turn to sustainable companies. Making sustainability a genuine priority — and avoiding greenwashing — is a great marketing tool that shows potential customers the company cares about the planet.
Boosts workplace morale and supports innovation: When employees work as a team toward a common goal, it creates a vibrant workplace where people strive to achieve something. Sustainability is a noble cause, and tasking employees with its related challenges can foster innovation and lead to groundbreaking solutions. An example of that would be engineers having to design sustainable packaging that reduces waste and looks more appealing on shelves. Ultimately, they may learn that increases sales and minimizes environmental impacts.
Positively impacts future communities: Companies aiming to reduce their carbon footprint and make environment-friendly products set the stage for future generations, ensuring a cleaner, healthier planet. This helps battle climate change and work toward a cleaner atmosphere.
Helps reap tax benefits: Companies that implement sustainability policies can garner many tax credits at the federal level, saving money they can invest into other greener practices or new initiatives.
Sustainability versus sustainable development
While sustainability and sustainable development may sound similar, they have fundamental differences.
Sustainability focuses more on the current point in time and how to minimize impact to a certain degree, by maintaining a sustainable way of living.
The principles of sustainable development, focus on the future, finding ways for society to fulfill its present needs while ensuring those of subsequent generations will be met. It does that by addressing issues of environmental importance and global social and economic problems. The goal is to produce a society that continually progresses and provides citizens with improved living conditions.
Sustainability applies to everyone
All corporations and individuals have a responsibility to help leave the planet in a viable condition for the future. Some contributions may feel insignificant, but these minor changes by manufacturers across different industries could greatly impact the future. These are changes consumers can implement into their consumption habits as well.
- Avoid changing electronic devices repetitively (technological industry): Because of technological advancements, users constantly upgrade their electronic devices. However, the manufacturing of these devices harms the environment, and so does the improper disposal of electronic devices. Each device contains earth minerals excavated by the mining industry, causing deforestation and pollution. It’s suggested that people use their electronic devices for longer periods, minimizing this impact.
- Make clothes with long-lasting materials (fashion industry): Garment manufacturing is responsible for depleting many resources. Cotton pesticides, fertilizers, and discarded scrap materials cause water and soil pollution. Because of this, clothing made of long-lasting materials helps consumers keep their clothing longer and avoid the need to regularly purchase more, thereby reducing environmental impact.
- Produce food using sustainable methods (food industry): Companies that grow their own produce and avoid toxic chemicals like pesticides contribute to a sustainable future. Practices like organic farming keep soil and groundwater clean and help produce crops with minimal impact.
- Go paperless (industry-wide): Companies in any industry can enjoy the benefits of going paperless and reducing waste across the globe. Electronic documents don’t need paper, printers, and related supplies, resulting in significant cost savings.
Organizations must understand how critical it is to preserve our resources for future generations. Implementing these three principles will enable them to reduce their carbon footprint and reap various benefits as part of their corporate social responsibility. Consider applying these tips to achieve a greener planet.
*Disclaimer: This summary is for general education purposes only and may be subject to change. ESGgo, Inc., and its affiliates (the “Company”, “ESGgo”, “we”, or “us”) cannot guarantee the accuracy of the statements made or conclusions reached in this summary and we expressly disclaim all representations and warranties (whether express or implied by statute or otherwise) whatsoever.