What are the Three Pillars of Sustainability?

Since the Pandemic destroyed the world’s supply chain and the invasion of Ukraine, we have rapidly become aware of how vulnerable the world economy is. In this rapidly changing environment, sustainability is becoming increasingly important. It is a wake up call for businesses to balance their financial goals with the responsibilities they have to society and the planet. As organizations strive for success while adhering to global sustainability standards, it’s essential to understand what comprises sustainable business practices. This blog post will explore each pillar in detail and discuss how organizations can leverage them to achieve true sustainability.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development recognizes three key elements of sustainability: economic, environmental, and social. With the rising awareness about its importance, more companies are striving to be as sustainable as possible in their practices. However, few understand what this entails or how it can be achieved. Herein lies an exploration into these pillars and advice on ways businesses may become greener – from the economy to our environment to society at large! So, buckle up we are about dish. And don’t forget to get the Checklist! ⬇️

What is the definition of the three pillars of sustainability?

To create a sustainable future, it is essential to consider the three pillars of sustainability: social, environmental and economic. Unless all aspects are taken into account and integrated together, we cannot hope for successful development moving forward.

To create a sustainable future, it is essential to consider the three pillars of sustainability: social, environmental and economic. Unless all aspects are taken into account and integrated together, we cannot hope for successful development in any direction.

  • The Economic Pillar: The economic pillar of sustainability focuses on ensuring that sustainable economic growth is possible and economically viable. This includes managing resources responsibly, designing policies that encourage investment in renewable energy sources and promoting fair trade practices to ensure equitable access to resources and benefits.
  • The Environmental Pillar: The environmental pillar of sustainability seeks to protect and conserve natural resources while using them in a responsible manner. This entails reducing carbon emissions, investing in renewable energy sources, conserving water and land resources, protecting biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as implementing waste management practices that lessen the impact on air quality.
  • The Social Pillar: The social pillar of sustainability focuses on creating a better quality of life for all. This involves protecting human rights, promoting gender equality and diversity, providing access to basic services such as health care, sanitation and education, as well as investing in social protection programs that build resilient communities.

Ultimately, sustainable development requires that these three pillars be taken into consideration together. Just like a three legged stool, if one leg is missing, the stool will not be able to support anything. At which point, it becomes a part of the problem as opposed to being a part of the solution. Keep that in mind as you move forward with your sustainability efforts.

Why are the 3 pillars of sustainability important?

The 3 pillars are important in many ways. When you consider that there are 333 million companies in the world which are responsible for 70% of CO2 emissions. If they all adopt these pillars it will have a significant effect on our future. Some of the reasons why the three pillars are important include:

  • Increased energy efficiency: With the focus on renewable energy sources, businesses are encouraged to become more efficient in their use of energy. This can help reduce emissions and conserve natural resources.
  • Improved economic sustainability: By focusing on long-term planning and careful management of resources, businesses can ensure that their operations remain financially viable for the future. This helps to reduce the risk of failure and creates a more secure environment for all stakeholders.
  • Reduced impact on the environment: By employing sustainable practices, businesses can reduce their environmental footprint. This includes reducing pollutants released into the air, water and soil, as well as supporting conservation efforts in areas where they operate.
  • Increased social responsibility: When businesses adopt sustainability policies, it promotes greater responsibility to society. This includes providing fair wages, safe working conditions and respect for human rights.
  • Improved public health: By reducing environmental pollutants and encouraging healthy living practices, businesses can contribute to better public health outcomes. This can help reduce the burden of diseases caused by air pollution or water contamination.
  • And it is the right thing to do.

Overall, the 3 pillars of sustainability are important in many ways. They help to create a better future for businesses and society as a whole by promoting energy efficiency, economic stability, environmental protection, social responsibility and public health.

Who created the 3 pillars of sustainability?

The 3 pillars were originally created by the Brundtland Commission, which was convened by the United Nations in 1987. The commission’s report, Our Common Future, outlined a vision of sustainable development, with an emphasis on “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The three pillars – environmental protection, economic stability and social responsibility – were introduced as the fundamental principles of sustainable development. Since then, they have been adopted and further developed by government bodies, businesses and other organizations around the world. The 3 pillars are widely accepted as a universal framework for guiding sustainability efforts in all areas of life.

Who uses a three pillar concept?

There are many organizations who are adopting the 3 pillars. Governments, businesses, NGOs and other organizations are using this concept in order to guide their sustainability efforts.

For example, many companies have adopted environmental management systems (EMS) in order to reduce their ecological footprint. These systems involve setting goals related to the 3 pillars of sustainability – such as reducing energy consumption or increasing the use of renewable resources – and three pillar concepts are used to measure progress.

The United Nations is also making use of the 3 pillars in their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals include targets related to poverty, health, education and climate change. Each target encourages actions related to one or more of the three pillars.

There are also variations of the theme including the 3 P’s, which stands for People, Planet and Profit. This concept is being used to encourage businesses to consider the social and environmental impacts of their operations as well as their financial returns. There is also the Triple Bottom Line, which emphasizes economic, social and environmental performance. Overall, the 3 pillars are widely used by organizations across all sectors to help guide their sustainability efforts.

What is the most important pillar of sustainability?

This a trick question because all three pillars are equally important in creating sustainable development. Each pillar focuses on different aspects of sustainability and all are necessary for a successful outcome.

For example, environmental protection is essential to ensure that resources are managed responsibly. Economic stability is needed for long-term financial health. And social responsibility is required to ensure fairness and justice. If there is no environmental protection then resources will be depleted. If there is no economic stability then businesses will struggle to stay afloat. And if there is no social responsibility then inequality can grow and communities will suffer. All three of the pillars are necessary to achieve true sustainability. Therefore, while each pillar has its own importance, it is the combination of all three that provides the framework for sustainability to be possible.

Why are the 3 pillars of sustainability important?

The World Commission’s report, “Our Common Future” (1987) used the idea of the 3 pillars to describe the idea that sustainable development requires balancing social, economic and environmental concerns using all available information. It went on to clarify that “sustainable development requires that each of the three pillars be equally emphasized.”

The pillars defined for future generations

The 1987 report set out a definition of sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” And it still remains an influential view today. In 2016, it was updated to define sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present “in ways that are not at the expense of future generations, yet more inclusively.”

The report looks ahead to 2050 and the need for humans to live within our planetary limits. It sets out goals to be achieved through sustainable development actions. In turn this will eventually achieve environmental stability while also maintaining economic growth. Quite a vision, but completely possible if we commit to the transition!

What is sustainability?

Sustainability is the ability of a system to keep from being destroyed by change or events over time. In order for a system to be sustainable, all three parts must be improved and kept healthy in order to not only survive, but to thrive. If our environment collapses then our societies would be cast into chaos. If our economic systems collapse then the environment would continue to fail until it was unable to sustain us. There must be balance between all 3 pillars in order for us to achieve the first phase of sustainability.

Why is sustainability important?

The importance of sustainability cannot be understated. When you consider that in the last century the world survived two world wars, the advancement of the industrial revolution and the constant growth of global population, it becomes evident that sustainability is essential for the future of our planet. This included the introduction of coal driven factories and the burning of fossil fuels in order to power them which has released large amounts of carbon pollutants into the atmosphere.

Then consider the effect this had on the world’s populations. It created more refugees, poverty, hunger and economic downturns. This has further had an effect on the environment as deforestation for the sake of farming has led to species loss and the overuse of resources. The rapid industrialization has led to pollution of our air and water, destruction of ecosystems and a decrease in the biodiversity. It has also led to poor health conditions, poverty and an increase in climate-related disasters. Basically it has led to a way of living that is unsustainable.

What countries are demonstrating the 3 pillars of sustainability?

While things are changing fast on a country by country basis, there are a number of countries who have made efforts in demonstrating the 3 pillars. They include:

  • Germany: Germany has a history of sustainability, having implemented the first renewable energy laws in 2000 and since then, they have made impressive progress towards their goal of transitioning to a 100% renewable energy system by 2050.
  • Norway: Norway has implemented strict regulations on pollution and energy use in order to reach its sustainability goals. They have also established national parks, protected areas and other measures to conserve their natural resources.
  • Sweden: Sweden has one of the most ambitious climate targets of any country, aiming to become carbon neutral by 2045. They are also investing heavily in renewable energy and sustainable mobility solutions, as well as building efficient and eco-friendly buildings.
  • India: India has set ambitious goals for renewable energy generation with a target of 175 Gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by 2022. They have already achieved a significant portion of this goal, largely through policy initiatives and public-private partnership projects.
  • Japan: Japan has set a goal of reaching zero emissions by 2050 and is investing heavily in renewable energy sources as well as energy storage solutions to help achieve this target. They are also developing innovative approaches to urban planning that prioritize sustainable mobility options and efficient buildings.
  • The United States: The US has recently set a goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and is implementing ambitious policies to support this goal. This includes the Clean Power Plan, which sets targets for states to reduce emissions from power plants, as well as investments in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures.
  • Canada: Canada has recently adopted a goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and is investing heavily in renewable energy sources, energy efficiency initiatives, and public transit solutions. They are also trying to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels through carbon pricing systems and other climate action measures.

These countries have demonstrated that there is a long way to go in becoming sustainable, but efforts are being made. There will also be more pressure from consumer demand for responsible leadership from businesses and governments. As countries continue to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, these efforts will likely continue to increase. But do not kid yourself, we have a long way to go before we balance the negative effects of the last two centuries.

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How are the 3 Pillars important for businesses?

Surprisingly not all companies are understanding the benefits associated with transitioning to a sustainable business model. Nor the risks associated with doing nothing. If your company intends to be prosperous into the future, it will need to begin to adopt these principles.

6 benefits associated with transitioning to a sustainable business model

  1. Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty
  2. Higher brand recognition and reputation
  3. Reduced costs associated with customer service
  4. Improved efficiency in operations
  5. Lower overhead costs from investing in technology
  6. Greater access to new markets

6 Risks Associated with Not Transitioning to a Sustainable Business Model

  1. Reduced competitiveness due to failure to meet consumer demands
  2. Potential for negative public opinion and reputational damage
  3. Increased legal and regulatory risk
  4. Incorrect assumptions made about costs, timeframes, and outcomes
  5. Difficulty attracting new talent, customers, and investment
  6. Increased resource costs due to inefficient processes

By putting the three pillars at the core of their strategy, companies can create a solid foundation for success. With a customer-centric approach, businesses can ensure that every interaction is tailored to the individual customer’s needs and wants. By leveraging technology, companies can streamline operations, create more efficient processes, and reduce costs. Finally, with well-managed operations, businesses can ensure their products are delivered on time and with quality. And this is well proven, that transparent companies get better returns.

What does B Corporation status have to do with sustainability?

Businesses that pursue B Corporation status are required to meet higher standards of social and environmental impact in order to be considered a Benefit Corporation. They must also do this while they continue to grow their company or else they will not be able to keep their certification and use the B Corp name. The B Corp status was originally created so that companies could follow the 3 pillars of sustainability while also showing economic growth.

Do sustainable companies do better?

Companies that are found to be sustainable tend to do better in the long run because they are seen as responsible and will be rewarded for their efforts. This means not only increased sales and profits for the business, but more customers who feel comfortable supporting them because they are invested in the well-being of their company as well as the products and services they offer.

B Corp’s and sustainability

This was first created to help sustainable businesses put out a product that would reflect their practices in the market. If consumers saw this, they would prefer to buy products that are made by companies who are socially and environmentally conscious. They can also support these businesses when it comes to voting on legislature because they know what kind of impact their votes will have on the company. B Corporation status will help reduce the negative impact of unsustainable practices in the market which could lead to improved relationships with stakeholders, increased sales, and better company reputation.

What are the benefits of adhering to the 3 Pillars?

As companies become more sustainable, they will also begin to develop a better relationship with their stakeholders. They can create this by committing themselves to investing in their stakeholders. If companies did not invest in sustainable practices, it will lead to negative consequences for both the business and the environment. By adhering to the 3 pillars, businesses can show that they are committed to creating a better world while also showing stakeholders how much they care about their actions.

Why acting in a sustainable manner is good for business

People care. They care about their families, their communities and the state of the world. They care about the environment and the future we are leaving for the next generations. They also care about having someone care about them. We cannot undo the last two centuries of industrial revolution and war. But we can make changes now to correct the damage that they have caused on the environment and societies around the world. Thinking otherwise is unsustainable.

Which of the three sustainability pillars is most important?

This is a trick question. It is like asking which leg of a tripod is more important? All three pillars are equally important because without one of them, it will be very difficult to support the weight with only two. It is most important for companies to invest in sustainable practices in order to reduce their carbon footprint and develop a better relationship with stakeholders. If companies do not make sustainable choices, it can lead to problems for both their business and the environment. See SDG and ESG.

What is a simple definition of sustainability?

The simple definition: Sustainability means meeting our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Caveats, disclaimers & what are the 3 pillars of sustainability

At ESG | The Report, we believe that we can help make the world a more sustainable place through the power of education. We have covered many topics in this article and want to be clear that any reference to, or mention of strategy, economic wellbeing or food. The fashion industry, production of quality goals, developing nations and systems continual growth or human system. The conceptual framework, natural capital, industrial revolution and establishment. Or raw materials of world war or other companies, the uk government or chain in the context of this article is purely for informational purposes. Not to be misconstrued as investment or any other legal advice or an endorsement of any particular company or service. Neither ESG | The Report, it’s contributors or their respective companies or any of its members gives any warranty with respect to the information herein. And shall have no responsibility for any decisions made, or action taken or not taken which relates to matters covered by ESG | The Report. Thank you for reading, and we hope that you found this article useful in your quest to understand ESG and sustainable business practices. We look forward to living in a sustainable world.

Author Bio

Research & Curation

Dean Emerick is a curator on sustainability issues with ESG The Report, an online resource for professionals focusing on ESG principles. Their primary goal is to provide resources to help middle market companies, SMEs and SMBs transition to a more sustainable future.