Sustainability management ensures that business activities positively impact environmental and social well-being while also being financially sustainable. In other words, it’s about finding the right balance between people, the planet, and profit.
Let’s explore what this means in more depth.
Sustainability Management Overview
“What is sustainability management?” is often the first question people ask. After all, if it’s something that businesses need to do, surely it must be important? The answer is a resounding yes.
But what does ‘sustainability management’ actually entail?
There are a few different definitions out there. Still, the one that we like best comes from the Brundtland Report, which defined it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations x Oxford University Press, 1987).
So what does that mean in practical terms?
It implies taking a long-term view and making decisions today that will benefit us, the planet we live on, and future generations. It also indicates taking the three pillars of sustainability into account:
The Environmental Pillar
As the world becomes increasingly aware of the need to protect the environment, businesses are under pressure to operate more sustainably. This connotes using resources more efficiently, reducing waste and emissions, and generally having a smaller environmental footprint.
- Almost two-thirds of North Americans agree that sustainability must impact business operations, like strategy creation and value provision.
- 84% of Europeans and 89% of respondents from all other regions agree. (Maryville University, 2021)
The Social Pillar
Sustainability management is not just about environmental protection – it’s also about social responsibility. This signifies that industrial activities should positively impact society, including creating jobs, supporting local communities, and providing fair and safe working conditions.
- 73% of Americans say they’d quit buying from a brand that ignores climate change. (Maryville University, 2021)
The Economic Pillar
Last but not least, sustainability management is also about economic sustainability. This speaks of assuring businesses are financially viable in the long term and able to generate value for shareholders.
- 75% of corporate sustainability specialists believe organizations must improve their ability to incorporate sustainability into strategies to tackle mega-trends worldwide. (Maryville University, 2021)
How to Manage Renewable Resources for Sustainable Use
At its core, sustainability management focuses on public policy, engineering, and design to achieve sustainable outcomes. That means focusing on the long-term well-being of both people and the planet from start to finish, rather than simply pursuing short-term gains and profits.
With that said, managing resources for sustainable use is all about using them at a rate that’s equal to or less than the rate at which they can be replenished. Better yet, not use them altogether when possible. We can achieve this through various methods, such as:
|Instead of||We Can|
|Overusing resources||Restrict access to certain areas to allow resources to regenerate|
|Burning fossil fuels||Develop new technologies that use renewable resources more efficiently|
|Wasteful consumption||Educate people about the importance of sustainable resource management|
|Excessive use||Encourage consumers to employ renewable resources sparingly|
|Exploiting power and privilege||Implement policies and regulations that promote sustainable resource use|
The above are just a few examples, but there are many ways to manage renewable resources for sustainable use. But the next time you’re asked, “what is sustainability management?” you’ll know it’s all about using our resources wisely to benefit both people and the planet in the long run.
Best Sustainability Practices to Manage Resources
Aside from the methods mentioned above, we can adopt certain practices to manage resources more sustainably. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Water and Wastewater Systems
Washington State Department of Health reports an average person potentially wastes up to 30 gallons of water without realizing it. That’s enough water to fill up an entire bathtub. To help conserve water and improve our wastewater systems, we can:
- Install water meters and set rates based on use to encourage conservation
- Replace old, inefficient toilets, showerheads, and faucets with water-saving models
- Capture rainwater for use in landscaping or other non-potable applications
Recycling and Waste Reduction
A recent report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency says an average person produces 4.9 pounds of waste each day. What’s more, only 35% of this garbage is recycled or composted. Since most of these end up in landfills, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. We can help reduce this if we:
- Buy products with less packaging
- Reuse materials whenever possible
- Manage landfills and incinerators properly
The US Energy Information Administration claims renewable energy sources were responsible for roughly 12.6% of total US energy consumption and approximately 19.8% of electricity generation in 2020. If we want to conserve energy further, we can:
- Switch to energy-efficient lighting
- Use solar power
- Utilize computers and other electronic equipment wisely
This type of infrastructure is designed to have a smaller ecological footprint and use resources more efficiently. Although the green construction market in the US is estimated to reach $103.08 billion by 2023, we can further support the industry if we:
- Take advantage of recycled and recyclable materials
- Install energy-efficient windows and doors
- Use native plants in landscaping
According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, cars, trucks,
and buses account for 23% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and 64% of oil consumption. To help reduce these numbers, we can:
- Walk, bike, or carpool instead of driving whenever possible
- Make use of public transportation
- Drive fuel-efficient vehicles
Land and Community Planning
By 2050, The World Bank estimates that 68% of the world’s population will live in cities. This urbanization can put a strain on resources and lead to environmental problems. To help manage this growth, we can:
- Encourage mixed-use development
- Create green space
- Employ smart growth strategies
During this time of climate crisis, the question “what is sustainability management?” is more important than ever. We need to be thoughtful about using the earth’s resources if we want to protect our environment and ensure a livable planet for future generations. Fortunately, there are many ways we can adopt sustainable practices in our daily lives to help make a difference.