A principle with many faces
Globally active companies have the power to help create a world that “satisfies the needs of the modern generation without endangering future generations’ opportunities to satisfy their own needs and choose their own lifestyle,” as one report for the World Commission on Environment and Development puts it (1). In other words, no generation should live at the expense of the generation that follows. This principle is what we mean by ‘sustainability’.
The topic of sustainability has long since reached the ultimate consumer: bloggers everywhere are joining the sustainability movement and helping to establish it as a modern attitude towards life.
Sustainability implies a lot more than eco friendliness. Sustainability is a long-term balancing of social, economic and ecological priorities, and is not exclusively for the goal of economic progress.
The general understanding of sustainability encompasses three different concepts:
- Ecological sustainability pursues the goal of conserving nature and the environment for subsequent generations. This includes upholding species diversity, protecting the climate and preserving natural and agricultural areas in their original form.
- Economic sustainability calls for business practices that create a permanently viable basis for commerce and prosperity. Of special importance here is protecting economic resources against exploitation.
- Social sustainability demands the development of a society in which all members of a community can participate. This includes a balancing of social forces with the aim of creating a liveable society that has a solid future (2).
This “ecology – economy – sociology” interpretation is the concept of sustainability that has caught on most in the world. Many companies and governments base their sustainability strategies on this three-pillared model.
Sustainable business requires intensive market research of the demand for sustainable products, sustainable HR management and value-oriented management. Accordingly, “sustainable management” is inter-divisional and should not be passed off as necessary constraints, but rather appreciated as a value and innovation driver in the core business.
Only then can an enterprise’s commitment be effective and lasting. If entrepreneurial commitment is to be accepted and believed, it is crucial to tie sustainability aspects in with the long-term goals and corporate culture. This goes as much for the development of a strategy as for its operative implementation.
In essence, sustainability equates to future viability, given that sustainability is a social goal and necessity, and that social acceptance is in turn essential for many companies’ economic success.
The importance of sustainable management becomes clear upon closer observation of the sustainability concepts of many companies.
Sustainability – a matter of perspective
If the three-pillar concept of sustainability is integrated into every aspect of a company, then it affects all areas. This is because sustainability management encompasses many aspects: from social engagement, responsibility in the supply chain, reduction of CO2 emissions and sustainable logistics, to work-life balance in human resources management, and environmentally friendly and socially acceptable technologies and processes for energy generation and production. Taking a sustainable stance is being increasingly accepted as a competitive advantage and an important element for employee loyalty and retention (3).
Different companies and industries take different approaches to advertising their stance on sustainability. Looking at the various sustainability policies, one notices that different companies will emphasize different aspects of sustainability more than others. A chemical company, for example, will talk more about ecological sustainability while a company operating in the social sector will talk more about sustainable employee management.
This difference could plausibly be explained by an organization’s tendency to put their sustainability policy in a wording that reflects the social attitudes towards that organization’s field of activity. To continue our example, a majority of people associate chemicals with poisons, water and air pollution and other negative aspects. In response, the chemical companies therefore strive to make it clear in their sustainability policies how they help to protect the climate and spare resources in their choice of manufacturing processes, energy technologies, use of renewable raw materials and so forth.
Sustainable employee management is of course in no way neglected; it’s just that a chemical group will not push it so much into the limelight as a social organization might do. Society namely tends to push actively for sustainable HR management in the latter organizations. Accordingly, their sustainability policies often speak louder about things like family-friendly corporate policies, promotion of employee health, participation, distribution of wealth in the form of donations, and other such matters.
Sustainability is an important economic issue of our times. The first companies began publishing reports in the late 1980s and early 1990s about how they go about managing the environment and social concerns. Now, companies have entire departments dedicated to the issue of sustainability, for developing socially responsible strategies and products as well as initiatives to improve the public perception of the organization.
This demands vision, thorough planning, and support from the general management. Sustainability is an indispensable component of an entity, and its successful implementation leads to long-term growth and prosperity.
(1) "Unsere gemeinsame Zukunft." Brundtland report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987.
(2 en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Sustainability #Three_dimensions_of_sustainability
(3 www .bmub. bund .de/fileadmin/Daten_BMU/Pools/Broschueren/csr_nachhaltigkeit_fuehrung_broschuere.pdf
Social Media Manager
Stories - Nature - Movement. These three words have the greatest meaning in my life.
As a passionate communicator, I am responsible for social media at IMPAG. In addition, I write various contents for our communication activities in the area of personal care. I love stories, constructive exchange, open discussions and teamwork. In my spare time you meet me and my family always in motion, be it biking, climbing and hiking in the mountains or surfing in the waves of the Atlantic.