The 3 Pillars of Sustainability
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The principles of sustainability are the foundations of what this concept represents.
Sustainability is made up of three pillars: the economy, society, and the environment.
These principles are also informally used as profit, people and planet.
Let us first discuss the first pillar, which is the planet, and use agriculture as an example. Imagine a piece of land that has been farmed for palm oil for decades. Ideally, farmers should take breaks in between harvests because the land’s quality will be compromised if it is overused. If overused, it will take several years before the land can be useful again, which means future generations won’t be able to use it for a while.
People sustainability, on another note, includes giving priority to the welfare of a given set of workers of a company. Let’s say, for example, a company ABC gives bi-annual skills training to its workers that they can use in the future. The skills that they acquire can be useful to the operations of ABC in the future. Also, it may include providing workers with more flexible working hours and a more conducive working environment. Doing so makes the workforce happier, which will eventually lead to a more productive company.
The economic pillar refers to the capacity of an economy to uphold a certain level of economic output infinitely.
This pillar encompasses topics like looking at the costs of sustainability efforts in businesses, job creation and upward mobility, government incentives for sustainable practices, and market practices that promote environmental health and social prosperity.
This pillar is often the impetus behind suspending efforts on the environmental side. During a recession, for example, environmental programs are often the first to lose funding and investment. Priorities shift to economic issues, casting aside the future of the environment.
Another way the economic pillar inhibits the environmental one is through cost. For example, If the cost-effectiveness of a new, more sustainable technology is much higher than a legacy one, it will be significantly more difficult to implement it.
However, as society becomes more educated on the importance of environmental sustainability, efforts to create solutions that are good for both business and the planet have started to emerge. Governments have started offering incentives and tax breaks for green business practices. The reduction of waste and increased usage of recycled materials in production have padded bottom line for many businesses, while also reducing environmental impact. Innovative technologies have provided new job opportunities for communities, building up the economy in those areas.
Economic sustainability also means ensuring that companies who do rely on natural resources can survive in the long term. If that resource your company depends on runs out, your business will no longer exist as well. So it’s in the best interest for those companies to ensure that natural resources stick around for the future, and to find new, sustainable ways of conducting business that won’t harm the long-term success of the company.
The Bottom Line
If you or your community is interested in building out the sustainability efforts in your area, let us know! We do work with all types of organizations to help them create more resilient, future-proof environments.
The great thing about sustainability is that if we take care of people and the planet, we can also make profits.