Sustainability in recent years has been used to define anything that by altering the normative behaviour of the consumer has the ability to keep going past its expected lifespan. For example; by reducing our energy usage by turning off the light as we leave a room, we are cutting down the amount of fossil fuels which are used to power our homes and offices thereby making the fossil fuel that we already have last longer. These small acts or normative behaviours are indicative of the realisation that if individuals and companies keep operating as they are, then future generations will be unable to enjoy the same resources, and as a result may have a decreased quality of life. However, sustainability doesn’t always have to do with the environment. It can also be applied to businesses and social equality.
According to The World Council for Economic Development, for a business to be sustainable, it needs to combine economic efficiency with social equality. This addresses business issues such as “innovation, prosperity and productivity”, as well as personal issues such as “poverty, community, health and wellness and human rights”. When analysing this list, it becomes apparent that money, although important, isn’t what makes a business.
Without ideas, growth and productivity (in terms of both product and intellectual based output) consistently being developed, improved and renegotiated as part of an ongoing process, businesses cannot be sustained. By being unable to keep up with the competition, reframe their ideas or keep ahead of consumer needs, businesses often find themselves unable to sustain themselves, even if they originally had money. To be able to excel in these key areas it can therefore be concluded that businesses need people who are able to grow, share ideas, and put their efforts into producing the desired output of your business.
However, if workers face poverty (relative and actual), don’t feel as though they are part of the work community, are sick or have their human rights threatened or taken away from them, the three key business issues; “innovation, prosperity and productivity” can be harder to achieve. By focusing on the individual and making small changes such as paying the living wage, making an effort to build a good work environment so that everybody feels safe and having rules and regulations in place that seek to look after your staff, can make a big difference. It is true that you won’t be able to control everything, particularly as your team grows and more and more relationships are formed, but making an effort to look after individuals can have a bigger impact on long term outcomes and business sustainability.