The Three Pillars of Sustainability

In October of 1987, a 300-page report was published by the former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland. She was also the Chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). The report was dubbed the “Brundtland report” but formally titled as “Our Common Future”.

This report outlined the need for the world to adopt sustainable development practices to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

It was very forward-thinking and realized the interconnectedness of globalization’s impact.

It raised three key elements; social, economic, and environment as being inherently interlocked.

In turn, these 3 “pillars” were the cornerstones for corporations and/or individuals to understand how they could make their businesses sustainable by incorporating the following practices.

Social: Promote values of fairness equitably amongst people. Respect individual rights. Combat social exclusion and discrimination. Include the local tradespeople, artisans, farmers and other small businesses prioritizing fair trade practices with international associations. Contribute to the well-being of business stakeholders, i.e. treat employees empathetically, maintain transparency through social dialogue. In other words, don’t be abusive or take selfish advantages designed to benefit only a few.

Economic: Limit the outcome risks of production and/or manufacturing by implementing recyclable measures and using renewal forms of materials. Develop a responsible economic system that can be regenerated for future growth. Improve energy performance reducing consumption thereby reducing costs. Implement the ISO 50001 standard for energy management. Furthermore, get certified for optimized business energy performance. Go green but don’t promote “greenwashing” either.

Environment: Protect the environment through understanding and applying methods to reduce risks that would otherwise damage biodiversity. Assess a company’s carbon footprint to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Save and preserve natural resources, improve waste management programs. Balance the inputs and outputs to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs).

These three pillars in practice form a base to a sustainable global culture in which businesses and individuals can thrive. This in turn, leads the way for future generations to benefit from not losing natural resources or having to live in a dystopian society.

The climate crisis exacerbates the need to be proactive, not reactive, to the deepening environmental changes we see everyday happening around the world. There is the Paris Agreement which has a seemingly simple goal to reduce the world’s temperature by at least 1.5 celsius (2.7 fahrenheit) limiting global warming that has been steadily on the rise since the advent of the industrial age. In other words, it’s a humankind produced problem with a humankind solution. Can we get there in time? is the looming question in our lifetime.

For those of you who say it doesn’t matter, who are fatalistic declaring you’ll die anyway, or simply don’t believe in the science, just keep in mind there are people related to you that will be living in the future (even if you are gone). It’s those people we have to include in our thinking. It’s a social conscience we can’t afford to ignore.

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