Chapter 36. Sustainability Counts

"Sustainability is not just about doing well by doing good; it is about doing better by doing good."

As defined by the Brundtland Commission, an organization convened by the United Nations in 1983 to address the growing concerns of the deterioration of the human environment and natural resources, "sustainability is a shared responsibility to proceed in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Or, in the words of countless parents and teachers, "Don't take more than your share." Sustainability seeks to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural environments so that each can exist in productive harmony. In fact, there may be as many definitions of sustainability and sustainable development as there are groups trying to define it. Regardless, all the definitions share these similar characteristics:

  • An acknowledgment that all resources are finite, and that there are limits to growth.

  • An understanding of the interconnections among the economy, society, and the environment.

  • An ability to weigh costs and benefits of decisions—including long-term costs and benefits to future generations—fully.

  • An equitable distribution of resources and opportunities.

Concerns about the environmental and social impacts of corporate activity are moving sustainability and social responsibility from important yet peripheral problems to issues debated in the boardrooms, classrooms, and around ...

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