April 28, 2023 | Supply Chain Strategy
The environment, the society and the economy make up the core framework for understanding sustainability. The Brundtland report in 1987 was the first to discuss these as the three pillars of sustainability.
Together, these three intertwined forms of sustainability enable businesses to take proactive, solutions-oriented approaches to complicated supply chain and procurement processes.
The environmental pillar includes two things – a commitment to protect the environment and measuring a business’s carbon footprint.
Many businesses today are attempting to reduce their water consumption, packaging waste, freight distances and overall carbon footprints to make greener strides and meet their sustainability and ESG goals. Focusing on the environmental pillar also helps the economy. For instance, reducing packaging materials and freight distances cut material and fuel costs.
Businesses must set targets to improve their performance on environmental issues. These goals are an integral part of Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility (CSER).
The social pillar in a business’s sustainable development efforts includes the attitude of equality and respect for individuals’ rights. The principles of the social pillar are several.
Acknowledge current social problems and integrate values in operations. For instance, support racial and gender equality, cut the gender pay gap, offer training to stakeholders, promote dialogue and more.
Helping to reduce social inequalities by collaborating with local and international associations and projects, and prioritizing fair trade products which guarantee an appropriate income for farmers and help to promote sustainable agriculture.
Create a workplace that ensures all employees and stakeholders are treated and paid fairly. For instance, make premises accessible to people with low mobility.
Economic sustainability aims to maintain the capital intact. If social sustainability focuses on improving social equality, environmental sustainability focuses on a business’s carbon footprint reduction, the economic sustainability aims to improve the standard of living of all employees and stakeholders associated with the business. It also refers to the efficient use of company assets to ensure company profitability over time.
Adoption of these three pillars of sustainability has a huge impact on our future – making it fair, viable and liveable.
However, a main question for investors and executives remains – if sustainability is beneficial for business? It certainly is – only if efficiently implemented.
With sustainability goals businesses have a larger purpose and some new deliverables to strive for that are good for society. It can help them transcend basic goals like cost reduction and focus on sustainability goals like reducing scope 3 emissions and increasing recycling rates.
Additionally, businesses that prioritize publicly shared sustainability and green goals can get intangible yet valuable benefits like public goodwill and a CSR reputation.
The three pillars of sustainability are significant on many levels overall. Through fostering energy efficiency, economic stability, environmental preservation, social responsibility, and public health, they contribute to bettering enterprises and the society as a whole.