The Three Pillars of Sustainability

Recycling and conservation come to mind when we think of sustainable activities.

There are a lot more factors to take into account while thinking about sustainability, even though these are crucial ones.

The three pillars of sustainability—environmentalism, social responsibility, and economic viability—are what I want to talk about today.

When deciding whether or not to embrace sustainable practises, you as a business owner or manager should be aware of how your organisation fits into each category.

Everyone wants to live longer and in better health.

Everyone living their best lives for as long as possible would make the world a better place, but we cannot disregard the consequences our lifestyles have on the ecosystem.

Conclusion Because it helps us protect the earth for future generations and enhances our quality of life by lowering stress levels and fostering healthy behaviours, sustainable living is more important in today's society.

The subject of sustainability is getting more attention. Naturally, there are a variety of definitions for sustainability.

However, they are all centred on the principle of conserving resources so they can continue to support present and future generations. The three pillars of sustainability—environmental stewardship, social fairness, and economic viability—will be covered in this essay.

Environmental stewardship, which is the first pillar, is characterised as "the notion of sustainable development based on a precautionary approach and a realisation that humans have a moral obligation towards nature" (wikipedia).

Essentially, it means using our natural resources with extreme caution! Social justice is the second pillar and is defined as "the idea of a society where resources and opportunities are allocated equitably through systems like taxation."

Nowadays, we casually use the term "sustainability" without fully comprehending what it means or what it means for our children and future generations.

To ensure that the Earth is habitable for future generations, however, there are three very important sustainability pillars that must be treated seriously.

But living sustainably involves more than just reusing your water bottles and riding your bike to work; it is based on three pillars.

Although all three pillars are equally crucial, this time we'll concentrate on knowledge.

Reducing consumption, utilising recycled materials whenever possible, and understanding as much as we can about the origins of our food are all part of sustainable living, which entails altering our lifestyles to live within the ecological boundaries of our planet.

No matter what business you work in, everyone needs to grasp it.

Three things will enable you to build a sustainable future for our world and future generations, whether you are working on sustainability efforts or are concerned about the environment.

These sustainability pillars can be used in any industry and offer a simple framework for comprehending how your organisation can benefit society through ethical business practises.

Three pillars—environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and economic viability—must be present for a business to be sustainable.

Each of these pillars plays a crucial role in your company's success in its whole. To better understand how each pillar functions in a firm, we will talk about each in this blog article individually.

The word "sustainability" is used frequently, but what does it actually mean? Sustainability may be used in practically any industry and spans a wide range of human endeavours.

Environmental, economic, and social sustainability are the three foundations that this article will discuss. The basis for sustainable living is these three pillars.

Let's get going!

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability is basically the capacity to meet the demands of the current generation while preserving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The idea applies to the environment, which is currently seen as the foundation of sustainability, as well as to other factors like the economy and people.

As a result, this is crucial to both PEST Analysis and ESG Analysis.

What Are the Three Pillars of Sustainability?

Social, economic, and environmental sustainability are three interconnected factors that are frequently used to describe sustainability.

These three types of sustainability are often referred to as the "three pillars of sustainability."

With the help of the three pillars of sustainability, it is possible to apply a solutions-focused strategy to challenging sustainability problems like fisheries management.

Today, many businesses, organisations, and governmental organizations—including the United Nations (UN) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—have adopted the "three pillars" concept as their foundation.

The three pillars are widely used, but their beginnings are obscure.

Instead, it is believed that early academic literature's economic, environmental, and social critiques are what gradually shaped the three pillars of sustainability.

The three pillars of sustainability, however, didn't enter popular culture until the 1980s.

Contrary to popular belief, sustainability encompasses more than only environmental preservation.

Environment, society, and economy are the three pillars of sustainability, with the environment being one of them.

People live in a world where the good quality of life is the norm when all three pillars are strong.

They enjoy an unblemished, thriving environment, a respectable level of economic well-being, and a high level of social fulfilment.

Let's investigate how these three ideas might be combined to build a more sustainable future for the planet.

Where Did the Three Pillars of Sustainability Come From?

We'll begin by looking at the term "sustainability" and its historical development before moving on to the three pillars of sustainability.

It may surprise you to hear that the concept of "sustainable" has been around for a very long time, even dating back to the 17th century, when forestry professionals first proposed the concept in reaction to Europe's declining forest supplies.

Also throughout the Industrial Revolution, early political economists studied the idea of sustainability in relation to the boundaries of economic expansion, wealth creation, and social fairness.

The phrase's present iteration was first used to describe the world's finite resources in the early 1970s, and it soon gained popularity.

The modern growth-based economy and its sustainability on a finite earth came into question as a result of greater awareness of significant environmental damage in the late 1960s and early 1970s environmental movement.

Thus, the phrase "sustainable development" came into use. It was first used in 1980 when the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) published their "World Conservation Strategy," with the subtitle "Living Resource Conservation for Sustainable Development."

The paper, which was produced with input from governments, non-governmental organisations, and other professionals, was the first international publication on the conservation of living resources.

It argues that in order for development to be sustainable, it must aid in conservation, safeguard ecological systems, and maintain species and ecosystems, forming the basis for the central principle of sustainable development.

The phrase is defined as something that "must consider social and ecological elements in addition to economic ones," a pre-cursor to the three pillars as we know them today.

The phrase "sustainable development" was originally coined in 1987 by the Brundtland report as an alternative to the economic system used in the majority of the world's nations. It aims to fulfil current demands without jeopardising the future of coming generations, in contrast to that system.

Five years later, in June 1992, at the Rio de Janeiro United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, this concept was further defined. Project XXI, a comprehensive plan of action, was also established. It set three areas on which international, national, and local authorities needed to collaborate to establish sustainable development.

Exploring The Three Pillars of Sustainability

If we only succeed in two of the three sustainability pillars, we end up with:

  • Social + Economic Sustainability = Equitable
  • Social + Environmental Sustainability = Bearable
  • Economic + Environmental Sustainability = Viable

Let's look at each of these pillars and how each influences the others.

Pillar 1: The Environment

Your initial association with the word "sustainable" is presumably a connection to the environment. Topics connected to the environmental pillar include things like water quality, ecosystem preservation, air quality, and resource integrity.

A corporation addressing the environmental pillar can choose to become net-zero.

Special environmental protection is necessary to exploit natural resources without depleting them and to aid in their recovery for use in the future. As in previous instances, this protection must also take into account the needs of the populace and the financial capabilities of the society in which they are used.

The biosphere in which we live is a part of the environmental pillar, which is the biggest system on earth.

Because it contains the human system, which is made up of the social and economic systems, it is given the highest emphasis.

Because of this, some pillar visualisations show the environment as the bigger picture containing the social and economic subsystems.

The ability to support environmental quality and natural resource extraction rates indefinitely is defined as the environmental pillar, which is likely the most real challenge in the world.

The public welfare provided by the social system is inversely correlated with the environment's loading capacity, as is the amount of output the economic system can produce.

In his 1990 article, "Toward some operational principles of sustainable development," ecological economist Herman Daly recommended the following approach to viewing environmental sustainability:

  • Sustainable yield requires that the rate of harvest for renewable resources does not outpace the rate of regeneration;
  • [For pollution] Project trash generation rates shouldn't be higher than what the environment can absorb (sustainable waste management; and
  • The depletion of nonrenewable resources should necessitate the equivalent creation of renewable alternatives for those resources.
Living within the constraints of our natural resources is essentially what the environmental pillar means. We're not doing this right now. If we don't alter our consumption patterns, some resources might run out throughout our lifetimes.
For instance, according to the British Petroleum Statistical Review, we have around 50 years before we run out of oil assuming world oil consumption maintains constant.

The group also calculates that we have 52.6 years' worth of usable natural gas.

Even worse, roughly half of the world's population may have trouble accessing fresh water by 2030, according to the International Resource Panel.

    Pillar 2: Society

    One fundamental principle underlies social sustainability: the ability to sustain through time the social well-being of a nation, community, or organisation.

    including topics like leisure, health, personal safety, and education.

    Respecting the local environment and financial resources is important for maintaining social cohesiveness.

    To accomplish this, we must strike a balance between individual and collective needs.

    We can contribute to ensuring that people can live healthy lives with everything they need to survive and prosper by concentrating on human health, environmental justice, education, and sustainable communities.

    What signs indicate a socially precarious system then? Examples include pervasive poverty, widespread injustice, low rates of education, war, and resource insecurity.

    Consider what transpires when a nation experiences a war. In times of war, environmental issues are neglected and occasionally even made worse.

    Businesses should keep an eye out for social sustainability in their workforce and supplier chain. For instance, are the workplaces where your products are produced safe and healthy?

    Do you offer fair pay? Do you make sure that the things you sell don't contain any child labour? What about testing on animals?

    Numerous actions can be taken to strengthen the social sustainability, including:

    • Empowering localities to take action to improve the condition of their environment, particularly in dirty and overused places.
    • Giving the general population information access might increase understanding of and commitment to sustainability.
    • Developing, modifying, designing, or building sustainable communities using strategies like green infrastructure and renewable energy technology

      Pillar 3: The Economy

      The ability of an economy to sustain a specific level of economic activity over an endless period of time is known as its "economic pillar."

      This pillar covers issues such as estimating the costs of businesses' sustainability initiatives, job creation and upward mobility, government incentives for sustainable practises, and market practises that advance social progress and environmental well-being.

      The requirements of that society must be met by a productive system without endangering the environment or the welfare of future generations.

      As a result, its implementation will be tightly tied to population requirements and environmental constraints.

      This pillar is frequently the driving force behind stopping environmental efforts.

      For instance, environmental projects are frequently the first to lose money and investment during a recession. As a result, economic concerns take precedence over the environment's future.

      Cost is another another way that the economic pillar impedes the environmental one. It will be significantly more challenging to implement a new, more sustainable technology, for instance, if its cost-effectiveness is significantly higher than that of a legacy one.

      However, initiatives to develop beneficial solutions for both business and the environment have begun to emerge as society becomes more aware of the significance of environmental sustainability.

      Governments have begun providing tax advantages and incentives for environmentally friendly company operations.

      As a result, many firms have seen their bottom lines improve while also lowering their impact on the environment thanks to waste reduction efforts and increased use of recycled materials in manufacturing.

      Innovative technologies have also given communities new job opportunities, boosting the economies of certain regions.

      Assuring the long-term viability of businesses that do rely on natural resources is another aspect of economic sustainability.

      Your firm won't continue to exist if the resource on which it depends runs out.

      Therefore, it is in the best interests of those businesses to preserve natural resources for the future and find innovative, sustainable business practises that won't jeopardise the organization's long-term prosperity.

      Five Domains of Sustainability

      The three pillars of sustainability—planet (environmental), people (socio-cultural), and profit—as well as other domains overlap in a diagram that demonstrates how sustainable communities are created (economic). A sustainable community cannot be accomplished without one of them.

      For instance, a community may already have a group of happy residents.

      They have access to practically everything they need, including jobs, parks, and food, but they lack reliable communication links for internet access and landline and mobile phone connectivity.

      Here, the technical realm is absent.

      The lack of communication channels makes the community unsustainable because there will be little chance for contact, expansion, or community-to-community cooperation.

      Consider a different example of the same neighbourhood with thriving businesses, happy people or residents, and a distinctive transportation system.

      The neighbourhood does not, however, have a public policy that will shield its citizens from prosperous businesses that do not adhere to approved garbage disposal norms.

      The neighbourhood will eventually disappear, and its resources will run out.

      As a result, if one of the domains is absent, no community can survive.

      Elements Of The Second Order Of Sustainability

      The fundamental challenge in putting these ideas into practise is that they must be combined rather than used separately, which adds to their complexity.

      This brings up the secondary level of concepts that contextualise the primary ones:

      • Supportable: It is necessary to strike a balance between taking social action and acting in a way that respects the environment.
      • Feasible: To continue progressively accomplishing goals, economic development and respect for the environment must be reasonable, feasible, and free of unrealistic and impossible goals.
      • Fair: Both sides must be satisfied with the ratio between economic growth and social benefits; they must each receive what they need and can afford to give.

      How Can You Plan A Sustainable City?

      One scenario where the three sustainability principles and their variations must be used is in cities.

      In order for infrastructure to be effective and financially feasible, a sustainable urban environment must, among other things, take population density into account, avoiding severely overcrowded areas and empty spaces.

      Additionally, these infrastructures must be structured so that districts in both freshly constructed and historic cities allow mixed usage, where businesses, residences, offices, parks, and recreational areas can coexist.

      This will avoid the development of so-called commuter communities while also shortening travel times, maximising the use of public transportation, lowering pollution, and supporting recycling and waste management practises.

      Finally, the economic activity must support policies that promote work-life balance, ongoing development, and other elements that enhance the quality of life of its citizens, without forgetting its commitment to environmental improvements.

      Sustainability Challenges in Finance and Investments

      The connection between profit and the other sustainability pillars is obvious and simple to comprehend.

      For many corporations or businesses, it might be difficult because it may entail slowing down their rate of profit-making due to negative effects on the community and the environment.

      Therefore, businesses should modify their profit goals and spend money on initiatives that support sustainability.

      The corporation can look for ways to reduce waste, going back to the diesel power plant example from earlier that doesn't follow approved waste disposal regulations.

      They should be aware that adhering to sustainability can result in superior profitability in the long run and that such earnings are just as significant as those in the upcoming quarter.

      The Bottom Line

      The sustainability of our planet ultimately depends on each and every one of us, from corporations to nonprofit organisations, from governments to citizens. To ensure that our world continues to be a place where we can live, however, everyone of us can take action.

      Please let us know if you or your neighbourhood are interested in expanding the sustainability efforts in your region.

      We assist all different kinds of companies in building environments that are more robust and future-proof.

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