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Introduction to Sustainable Business

Lesson Summary

Defining Sustainability

Sustainability is concerned with meeting today’s needs without affecting needs of the future negatively.

A sustainable business operates in the interest of all current and future stakeholders to insure that the business lasts a long time. A sustainable business is concerned with the current and future social, environmental, and economic impacts associated with its operations.

Buildings, products and services that are created with minimal negative impact on the environment with an emphasis on conservation of resources, energy efficiency and product safety are known as being green. If a business focuses exclusively on reducing negative environmental impact they are referred to as a green business or a business that is “going green”.

Defining Sustainability

Sustainable business has become popular through changing societal expectations and a growing awareness that sustainability can be beneficial to a business as well as humanity. Benefits of sustainability include improving a business’s image, reducing costs, and boosting the local economy.

Systems thinking is the awareness and understanding that everything is related in some way and that nothing exists in isolation. Each part of a business has a contribution to make in making a business sustainable.

For-profit businesses primarily must focus on their economic bottom line in order to have goods or services that are valued by society.

A business that depletes the resource base of a company can in the long term lead to financial failure. This emphasizes the need for considering the longer term and broader consequences of decisions.

The Triple Bottom Line

The triple bottom line refers to a business’s contribution to social justice, environmental quality, and economic prosperity. It is also sometimes referred to as people, planet, profit. A business must focus on all three dimensions to be sustainable.

Gulf Oil Spill

The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill from company BP is an example of how sustainability issues affect the triple bottom line. The effects of the spill included threatening the ecosystem of the Gulf, impacting wetland ecosystems, fish, birds and other wildlife. The oil spill could have been avoided if BP had focused on the triple bottom line. As a result of the spill the company lost market value and spent over $1 billion on cleanup efforts.

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