Climate change, famine, refugee flows, species extinction and plastic waste in the oceans. What used to be known only to individual scientists has become generally recognized in its explosive nature since “Fridays for Future” at the latest – the
Although there is no universally accepted definition of sustainability, the 1987 United Nations definition is one of the most common. It states: “Sustainable development is development that ensures that future generations are not worse off in meeting their needs than those living today. (Hauff 1987). Basically, developments and actions are sustainable if their effects do not negatively impact the present, nor the future.
In the 2016 United Nations Agenda, sustainability is divided into different dimensions: Environment (“Planet”), Society (“People”), Economy (“Prosperity”), and Peace (“Peace”) and Partnership (“Partnership”). A similar classification can also be found in one of the best-known sustainability models, the so-called 3-pillar model. The model assumes that sustainable action can only be achieved if environmental, social and economic goals are simultaneously observed and fulfilled. According to the concept, the 3 areas also influence each other so much that none of the 3 dimensions can be sustained in the long run without the others.
The three dimensions of sustainability can essentially be described as follows:
- Ecological Sustainability – Environment (“Planet”): its goal is mainly the conservation of natural resources. Ecologically sustainable would thus be a way of life that uses natural resources at most to the extent that they regenerate. In addition, a general minimization or avoidance of hazardous substances is also relevant. Particularly in the production of goods, care should be taken to use products and manufacturing processes that pose as few risks as possible to people and the environment.
- Social sustainability – society (“People”): Social sustainability aims to preserve the dignity of every human being. Each and every one of us as individuals can contribute to this in a variety of ways. But companies and states must also assume social responsibility in order to act in a socially sustainable manner. Here, for example, compliance with labor rights, social standards, health protection and gender equality play a central role. Further examples are provided by the socially sustainable development goals of the United Nations. These include ending poverty and hunger worldwide and realizing human rights for all.
- Economic sustainability – economy (“Prosperity”): Economic sustainability aims to prevent losses for future generations. In general, an economic system is considered sustainable if it can function in the long term. In addition, the aforementioned ecological and social goals can only be achieved if economically sustainable action is taken.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can be compared to the German term nachhaltige Unternehmensführung (sustainable corporate management). CSR is described by the European Commission as a concept based on companies voluntarily integrating high social standards and environmental considerations into their business activities at all existing levels. The concept also relates to the aforementioned 3 main dimensions of environment (“Planet”), society (“People”) and economy (“Prosperity”).
Most companies believe that it takes a lot of money to act sustainably. However, in the end it will benefit the company. This is because sustainability makes companies more efficient, improves their brand value and provides a platform for innovation. Additionally, sustainability helps attract and retain employees, reduce costs and strengthen stakeholder relationships.
Click here to read about the ways in which Smithers-Oasis also voluntarily adheres to CSR guidelines.
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- Prof. Dr. Nick Lin-Hi (2018), Corporate Social Responsibility
- Hardtke, A./ Prehn, M. (2001): Perspektiven der Nachhaltigkeit – Vom Leitbild zur Erfolgsstrategie.