There are many published, well known and universally accepted definitions of sustainability. Some of these definitions vary significantly in context and scope; others may be irrelevant to you or your business. The reason for this being that people view and value sustainability in different ways, just as people have different values, cultural and religious beliefs.
The best definition of sustainability is one that you create – one that is applicable to your values and culture, one that contextualises your vision and what you want to achieve as a business or as an individual. For this reason we will not present a “definition” of sustainability, but provide tools for defining sustainability.
Defining sustainability can be challenging but also rewarding, as the process can engage, empower and motivate people, creating ownership for walking the talk of sustainability.
Steps for defining sustainability:
1. What are your values – use this as your foundation. From a business perspective, there should be an agreed/common set of values for the company. Values, culture and purpose go hand in hand, therefore, a common set of values (lived by employees) can strengthen culture and provide a platform of unity and prosperity amongst the team.
2. What is important to you in social, economic and environmental contexts. These may be important issues to you, your business or your industry.
3. What is your purpose/aim and what is the scope or boundaries to this purpose.
Once you have gone through this process you will have a mind map and starting point for penning a definition BUT if you are still not clear – try it again to contextualise sustainability in different ways! Similarly in groups, it is best if each individual tries this exercise, and then convene as a group to decide on a common definition. The key is to know there are no wrong definitions, but it is important that the definition is tailored to you, your values and your culture.
Once you understand your context of sustainability, this process can also identify a starting point for commencing your sustainability journey and establish a framework for walking the talk of sustainability.
Go to Sustainability Hub