There is much debate on the words we use to describe sustainability. Here's a guest blog from Julie Urlaub, Founder and Managing Partner of Taiga Company, on the differing definitions and what role we can play...
What if our planet came with care instructions? If it did, would we be better citizens?
The word "sustainability" attempts to offer care instructions but there are also words like, "green" "corporate social responsibility" and "green living". With so many different ways of describing sustainability, it can be challenging to know what it is, much less what meaning it may have in our businesses and personal lives.
What can each of these definitions share with us, and how can they guide us to be better care takers of our planet?
At a corporate level, there is often CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility. Compared to "sustainability, many find its definition can be narrow in scope because it can imply a "stand alone" program in a corporate setting including diversity and wellness programs, sustainable procurement, investment recovery, community and stakeholder engagement.
On the other hand, sustainability is a macro concept that applies more broadly to entire systems and infrastructures. The term can be somewhat elusive, as it spans a multitude of topics. It includes all of the above elements of CSR but also includes, water, carbon, energy, waste management and social investment being embedded into a business.
Green, on the other hand, is a micro concept. We deal with green in our everyday lives with things like clothing, food, transportation, and a long list of suggestions on "how to go green today". Green is a pretty easy concept to understand in part because its relative and tangible. It is measured on a scale from dirty to clean or eco friendly vs. traditional product. Also, tangible eco actions are oftentimes associated with being green, such as recycling.
The path to sustainability and becoming better Earth citizens is a personal one. Seeing how these differing definitions can be uniformly applied into eco-actions, as it is the specific results that each company or individual obtains from applying these principals in their business and personal lives, which is important. Many success stories are inspiring - such as those shared by Starbucks, Unilever, and PepsiCo. However, it is often the personal sustainability stories that touch our hearts and inspire us to ask ourselves how we can use less, recycle more, and be better care takers of our planet.
Currently, there is a European 20-20-20 target to cut emissions, grow the use of renewables, and increase energy by 20 percent by 2020. Leveraging this as a model, how could a personal sustainability plan support global climate change targets and add immediate personal value if we each made a similar 20% personal commitment? There is lots of useful information out there to help you reduce your personal or business emissions such as the Act on CO2 Carbon Calculator, Energy Saving Trust, Ska Rating tool and the Carbon Trust.
Whether in a business setting or as part of green living, sustainability has a place in our lives. The definitions are of less meaning - it's our eco actions that matter!