request our brochure

Sustainability in companies goes beyond money

May 16, 2022
By Filipe Reduto Gaspar

The word “sustainability” is on everyone’s lips. Given the context of climate emergency that we live in, it is only natural that, as a society, we are concerned about investing in sustainable practices to ensure a future for us, for our loved ones, and for all species on our planet. And, fortunately, more and more companies are also taking part in this investment.

This concern is valuable because companies are a fundamental part of our economy and society. If we are to avoid climate disaster, it is important that civil society, government entities, and business organizations are mobilized to develop new attitudes towards it – all the more so when you consider that only a hundred companies are responsible for just over two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.

There is the problem, however, of the lack of understanding of what exactly sustainability is, because depending on the person or organization we are talking to, they will see it in a different way. Currently, and for the general public, this word immediately brings us to ecological actions. But in the business world, sustainability is still commonly synonymous with economic sustainability. Social sustainability, on the other hand, ends up being largely neglected.

To understand what sustainability is, it is necessary to understand that this concept is multidimensional. The late scholar Dr. Robert Goodland, in his 1995 article “The Concept of Environmental Sustainability”, based sustainability on three pillars: social sustainability, which presupposes a strong civil society, with a cohesive community, cultural identity, diversity, solidarity, pluralism, and individual well-being; economic sustainability, which occurs when there is economic stability and when consumption is conscious of environmental, social, and monetary limits; and environmental sustainability, for which it is crucial to protect the sources of raw materials used for human needs and to ensure that the waste we produce does not exceed natural limits.

The focus that companies tend to give to economic sustainability is largely related to the issue of economic stability – for a company to survive and evolve it needs financial stability and control of its expenses. However, they tend to ignore the issue of social and environmental limits, which should be taken very seriously since it directly influences economic stability (suffice it to think that it is not possible to sustain an economy in a context of scarce resources and discontented and overexploited people). Because these limits are not taken into account, there are several social movements that fight for more rights for workers and call for greater regulation of environmentally harmful practices by manufacturing industries.

How, then, can companies contribute to true, holistic sustainability? By respecting the self-regeneration of the environment and human beings. In other words, and going by concrete examples in the environmental issue, companies should be more aware of the waste they produce and the raw materials they overexploit; as for the office context, some green initiatives can be taken, which, although not having a tremendous impact, are still important, such as engaging in remote work, encouraging vegetarian meals and promoting the use of public transportation among employees, printing only what is necessary, using less air conditioning, and so on. About the self-regeneration of the human being and social sustainability, these are achieved, in the business environment, by promoting a healthy working environment, where the worker feels respected and has room to intervene with their ideas, and by valuing their personal time and rest after work.

If companies can expand their focus beyond money, and understand that the self-regeneration of nature and people is necessary for full sustainability, then not only will more pleasant, fairer, and more productive workplaces be created, but the path will be paved for a future in which ecological stability will finally be seen as a prerequisite for economic stability.