What are the Three Pillars of Sustainability?

Given that humans have historically been consumers instead of replenishers of the Earth’s resources and ecosystems, it is critical to start utilizing our finite resources responsibly. By definition, sustainability is the capacity of current generations to meet their own needs without jeopardizing future generations’ ability to meet their own. International Institute for Sustainable Development  describes that the ability of people to live in harmony with the rest of the planet’s ecosystem while causing little harm to it is what we mean by sustainability. One method to accomplish this aim is via a concept known as the three pillars of sustainability.

Let us try to better understand the three pillars of sustainability:

The three pillars of sustainability or the triple bottom line approach are comprised of three distinct constructs social, environmental, and financial. In other words, these are sometimes referred to as ‘the three p’s’: people, planet, and profit.

1. Social / People

Three Pillars of Sustainability - Social

This term refers to human capital and the development of instruments that enhance people’s quality of life, legislation that supports population needs, and the advancement of progressive politics in areas such as education, security, and recreation. This pillar assumes that the pursuit of a sustainable society is motivated by the desire for a well-cared-for and healthy society. Additionally, it is critical to create an atmosphere that fosters authentic and healthy professional relationships to promote all participants’ personal and collective growth.

When it comes to people, stakeholders take precedence over stockholders. While generating shareholder profit has been a corporate priority for far too long, people often allude to a company’s social effect. Employees, consumers, partners, the community, and even the Earth as a whole are all examples of stakeholders.

Businesses may use effective techniques to promote their social impact. By ensuring that their personnel reflect the community’s different origins, races, and cultures, for example, companies may become more inclusive.

Businesses may also increase their social effect by diversifying their leadership ranks. Often, and perhaps unconsciously, white males are appointed to senior positions in businesses. As research has repeatedly shown, firms may improve their financial success by including women and minorities in leadership positions.

The objective should be for firms to have a diverse and inclusive staff. It’s also about companies taking an active role in their local ecosystems. Businesses may become dynamic agents of change in their communities via volunteerism, contributions, and other kinds of giving back.

2. Environmental / Planet

Global warming, biodiversity loss, and rapidly growing amounts of waste all put humanity’s future in peril. For way too long, it has been the avarice of companies who prioritized profit above purpose that has brought us to this point.  The environmental pillar is rooted in the many efforts made over the years to preserve the environment, its natural resources, and to mitigate the harm done to the environment. At this level, businesses investigate strategies to conduct their activities with the least potential effect on the environment.

According to a Harvard Business Review study, 100 energy businesses are responsible for more than 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Just as they have propelled climate change, businesses have the potential and influence to catalyze the transition to sustainability.

Three Pillars of Sustainability - Wind Turbines

Businesses may contribute to good change while earning money by switching to renewable energy sources, going paperless, recycling their garbage, and lowering their water use. There is a great deal that can be done to make the globe more environmentally friendly. According to Forbes, businesses have a chance to set an example and encourage others to follow suit.

3. Economic / Profit

Three Pillars of Sustainability - Profit

A firm’s success in a capitalist economy is highly dependent on its financial performance, or the profit generated for shareholders. Generally, strategic planning projects and critical company choices are carefully crafted to maximize revenues while minimizing expenses and risk.

Historically, many businesses’ objectives have stopped there. Now, purpose-driven executives realize that they can leverage their companies to make a big difference in the world without jeopardizing financial success. Adopting a triple bottom line strategy may seem unrealistic to some in a society that values profit above meaning. Nevertheless, innovative businesses have repeatedly shown that it is possible to prosper while doing good. 

Furthermore, this dimension is also concerned with the manufacture, distribution, and consumption of products and services. To be sustainable, businesses cannot benefit from labor exploitation or reckless and illegal environmental exploitation. The financial outcomes benefit from sustainable attitudes since they save resources, electricity, and water, which results in a lower monthly expense. In other words, there is a cyclical relationship between sustainability and economic growth.

4. Why are the Three Pillars of Sustainability Important?

There may be several obstacles encountered when implementing the three pillars of sustainability in business, particularly when it comes to monitoring environmental impacts. Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are battling climate change by forcing governments to modify their laws; nevertheless, we should not rely only on them. Individual sustainability should come first, followed by organizational and corporate entities, since everyone must strive for a brighter future.

Nonetheless, the three pillars of sustainability do not automatically prioritize society and environmental impact above financial performance. Rather than that, many businesses have enjoyed financial rewards for adopting sustainable business measures. Through these pillars for evaluating a company’s sustainability, it is possible to determine if an organization is on the verge of being sustainable or not. Thus, a sustainable business is one that, at the conclusion of its review, has maintained or enhanced its prior level of progress in the three categories.

We are basically sentencing humanity to extinction unless drastic adjustments are made. Even the most materialistic items will be worthless at that juncture. Despite the length and uncertainty of the road ahead, it is critical not to get disheartened. Individuals can take the initial measures toward sustainability and drive success in their own lives by saving energy or traveling more sustainably.  Firms must gradually unite behind a shared cause and make a significant, demonstrable difference.

It is critical that the three pillars of sustainability interact in a convergent manner since sustainability cannot exist without these three pillars. Each of the pillars demonstrates a setting in which sustainability is implemented, while also demonstrating how each pillar is dependent on the others for survival.