The concept of corporate sustainability can be confusing. There are lots of interpretations and very few good examples of sustainable organisations in practice.
The classic definition of sustainable development is:
‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
Basically, this means that development is sustainable when we account for the impacts that affect us now and will affect us in the future. For example, the impacts of fossil fuel use and extraction, the effects of gender inequality on our current and future societies, or how certain economic activities can maintain or exacerbate vast inequalities in income and opportunity.
What can be overwhelming about approaching sustainable development as an organisation is that social, economic, and environmental matters cover essentially every aspect of our lives. So how can an organisation ever become sustainable?
The trick is sustainability isn’t a destination - it’s a journey. Sustainability is a practice and an ethos for how we engage with the world; it’s not a series of rules or regulations. So, ironically, ’sustainability’ is a transition. It is a state that needs to constantly adapt to the world’s changing conditions and can’t actually be sustained as it is. No wonder it’s such a confusing idea!
Often it is understood that, by aligning to regulations, an organisation can display itself as being sustainable…. but we need to make something very clear: aligning to regulations is not a sign of corporate sustainability - it is the bare minimum.
To truly be sustainable, an organisation needs to constantly commit to improving its impacts on the economy, environment, and society, while being accountable for any negative impacts that remain. A sustainable organisation commits to continually plant positive seeds of inclusion, trust, accountability, and investment in people and planet, while adapting, unlearning, or picking up new practices to remain relevant and values-driven.
If we continue to see sustainability as a static taxonomy or set of regulations, how can we expect organisations to engage with the values, creativity, and optimism required to transition to a more sustainable world?
Engaging with sustainability as a values-based transition as opposed to a destination allows organisations to influence and steer the direction and impact of their journey. It allows for innovation, growth, and long-lasting improvements. Also, the more actively sustainability is engaged with, the more the benefits and opportunities can be reaped.
Don’t be restricted or overwhelmed by what to do to be sustainable - it is one of the broadest concepts to exist. Instead, get energised by the possibility for change and communicate why it is important to you.
If this all sounds like a lot, ask yourself: ‘how can our company contribute towards positive change in the world?’ and start there. We all have the power to make a difference.
Learn about how FutureTrack can help you in your sustainability journey here.