Today’s post is written by Heather to educate us on what “sustainability really means”.
As a starting point, lets us be clear about what the word sustainable means. The best place to find meanings is in the dictionary so here is it's definition: it allows a current generation needs to be met without compromising the ability of a future generation to meet their needs.
This definition fits well into environmental protection and care. This is definitely the buzz context in many facets of living today.
Prior to COVID-19 (which now dominates the new channels), it was hard to get through a 24-hour period without hearing some voices around reducing single use plastics, carbon footprints, the recycling industries crisis and governmental response and youth environmental protests inspired by Greta Thunberg along with a host of other calls to action and discussion. Environmental sustainability is a critical aspect of sustainability that each one of us are called to take action upon. I am glad it has finally come to the forefront.
But there is more to the original concept of sustainability.
It considers the planet, along with people and profits.
In more technical terms, social, environmental and economic.
From an environmental (planet) view, a “sustainable” product is made from recycled materials, handmade or made from raw materials that are naturally harvested in quantities that are sustainable.
A “sustainable” product also ensures that its producers needs (and that of their children) are being taken care of (social/people). For example;
The cotton plantation that understands that a child’s education is incredibly important for empowering that child to move out of poverty so it does not have child workers.
Sadly, a liveable wage is not the standard pay rate for too many workplaces in the world.
Thus, the workers and the future generations from them continue to suffer.
The final sustainable pillar is profit (economic factor). Profit seems to be a bit of a dirty word in some activists’ circle. As if seeking profit means exploitation of both the worker and the planet. But that stereotype is should not be the case.
Profit (or economic sustainability) allows a people and planet minded business to keep going.
Ending up with no money in the bank to run the most eco-friendly and ethical enterprise is only going to help a few for a short time. Building a sustainable economic foundation is so important to the longevity and overall impact of that work. This is also understood in the humanitarian development sector and one of the reason that initiatives like micro financing has evolved. A community may need some financial assistance in times of crisis but then assisting them into ongoing financial, technical and social independence is considered sustainable.
So, next time you hear the word “sustainable”, ask yourself does it cover, people
planet and profit?
If yes, you know it is really helping us build a better future.
Let us know what you think.