1.6 Summary



As has become apparent from the previous discussion, while the word ‘Sustainability’ may be used interchangeably with a range of other concepts such as ‘sustainable development’, ‘corporate responsibility’ and ‘resource efficiency’, there is no formal, internationally-agreed definition of the term that is applied universally. Throughout this module, we will use the term sustainability but bear in mind that some web links and videos will use the terms ‘sustainable development’, ‘corporate responsibility’ and ‘sustainability’ interchangeably.

This session has highlighted that sustainability is not easily defined. Various definitions exist. In the commercial context, many businesses have tended to define sustainability in terms of what it means for them. Frequently this relates less to sustainable development and more to issues of energy and carbon reduction, resource and supply chain efficiency, local procurement and staff retention.

However, insights into what sustainability actually means can be gained by taking a historical perspective. This indicates that concepts such as peoples’ needs, and limits of the environment to meet these needs, are central to sustainability. While human society has resulted in some of these limits and planetary boundaries being exceeded, we do possess the ability to manage the environment in a sustainable way, through economic, scientific and social development.

Throughout the remainder of this module, we will explore a number of examples and case studies that illustrate how businesses have attempted to address the issue of sustainability. We will consider the topic from the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders in business – customers, staff, suppliers and investors. We will analyse a number of case studies of corporate sustainability and investigate how businesses measure and communicate sustainability to their stakeholders.