Comments on: Why “sustainability” should be more than a meaningless buzzword Thu, 21 Jul 2016 07:57:19 +0000 hourly 1 By: click here Sat, 08 Nov 2014 07:11:30 +0000 Make an impression on, this may be a marvelous section of write which I have stumbled upon in big long term. Make as well head to our web site.

By: EarthSayer Fri, 11 Oct 2013 17:41:59 +0000 I know of no one else who tracks the roots sustainability back to the Sierra Club but anything is possible and anyone can write pretty much anything without bothering to fact check. Certainly the Sierra Club has not used the term much in terms of their own activities continuing with their focus planet: explore, enjoy and protect the planet.

I prefer to point out that the concept of sustainability, for me, is best expressed in The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations (18th century) as the Great Binding Law, Gayanashagowa. It reads, “Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground — the unborn of the future Nation.”

Committed as I am to increasing awareness of this concept, and building on the work of others, particularly the members of the Brundtland Commission (Report, October 1987), the attendees at the Rio Earth Summit (1992), and the sponsors and participants in the recent Regeneration Project, I chose the term sustainability to represent the concept of the next seven generations.

And, as part of my commitment, there are now over a 1,200 voices of sustainability that we have curated and indexed in our search engine,, voices of sustainability. Each of these voices – it’s all video – give definition and understanding to the term and demonstrate the strength of integrating planet, people and profit in words and actions.

A March 2013 New York Times opinion piece ( talks about sustainability – the “realms” of environment, social, and economic- as being better represented as nested into one another, rather than remaining disconnected in silos or illustrated as columns or chopped up into disciplines. They call it a new architecture.

The term is not solely the purview of business owners or environmentalist or economists, all though often, as in Elizabeth Scharpf’s article, it is represented as being all about commerce, supply chains, indexes etc. and its “buzziness” viewed not as a measurement of awareness but a sell-out, a cover for misdeeds, fakery. This is called dissing. And dissing makes for news hence, I guess, the assumption-laden title of this piece in a place with considerable distribution.

As an antidote to buzz, I can recommend five sustainability thought leaders to hear from, or any one of them will do, so readers may find helpful in understanding the term and feel more confident using it. Here they are:

Steve Cochran,, National Center for Sustainability; Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert,, Founder of the Natural Step; Ms. Hunter Lovins,, Natural Capital Solutions; llarion Merculieff (Aleut); and Professor Stuart Hart,, Samuel C. Johnson Chair in Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University’s Johnson School.

By: paul.polman Thu, 10 Oct 2013 10:50:04 +0000 Thanks for sharing. I could not agree more. Many of the practices can be scaled and that’s exactly what we are trying to do at Unilever where we have made some tougher commitments to ensure a more equitable and sustainable world for all. I just came back from a visit to Kenya last week , not only to pay my respect for the victims of this terrible disaster , but also to talk to the farmers and people with visual disabilities for which I have a special passion. As member of the high level panel for the post 2015 MDG’s I have heard over and over the need to leave no one behind and put sustainable development at the core. The events in Kenya were once more a good reminder to stay focussed on that journey. More than sustainable growth alone its transforming the economies for jobs and inclusive growth. It also requires effective ,open and accountable institutions. An area we can all push for. Only by working the challenges together can we get to this better world for all. You are clearly playing your part for which I am grateful. What we in the end call it is not that important. We will ultimately be judged on what we do. Thanks again. Paul Polman global CEO Unilever

By: hskoppek Wed, 09 Oct 2013 15:19:34 +0000 You make it very clear what you understand by sustainability, something I miss in many corporate attempts to communicate their sustainable practices. In this sense your critique still stands and deserves to be taken seriously.

Though still small, I consider your initiative a great example for others to follow. You walk your talk. Keep walking.

By: COindependent Tue, 08 Oct 2013 13:33:30 +0000 The author does not mention how this initiative is sustained. Are the products sold exclusively in the country of production or exported to western nations? If they are exported, then her company is “multi-national” and becomes a consumer of transportation assets on a global scale. If the company only sells their production in-country, even using a horse-cart requires the consumption of resources not associated with the product. The author is arguing semantics–I am more “sustainable” than someone else, therefore you should embrace my definition only.

One could also argue that ANY company that reduces their historic consumption of resources while maintaining their production levels is “sustainable”.

The point is that “sustainable” is a term that is open to various interpretations because the production environment is a mix of various resources required for economic success. While sustainable is often substituted by “renewable”, many, if not all, still require the consumption of limited and/or non-renewable resources to be economically viable: e.g. transportation and distribution. In the same way, sustainable wind energy consumes (limited) copper, to produce generators or other (limited/non-renewable) products to construct their core product (epoxy, plastic, fiberglass, etc.) does not make them any more or less sustainable.

Sustainable is in the eye of the beholder.

By: tmorgan Tue, 08 Oct 2013 13:29:38 +0000 ‘Sustainability’ had a clear definition decades ago before it became a misused buzzword. As a college student in the late 1980s I learned from my environmental sciences professors that sustainable means any process that can be continued indefinitely. This is primarily about resource usage and the resource replenishment rate regardless of the time horizon for the exhaustion of the resource. Burning fossil fuels is unsustainable simply because, for a human time frame, they are not replenished at all. Extracting water from an aquifer is sustainable if the rate of extraction does not exceed the rate of recharge.
There is no morality component to sustainability. If a polluter is dumping waste at a rate which natural processes ‘clean up’ and the waste is therefore not accumulating to harmful levels, it is a sustainable process regardless of our view of the morality of the pollution.
The morality of actions must be assessed separately. Unfortunately a process may be completely sustainable but morally repugnant. Slavery is an example. The slave owner is engaged in an unquestionably immoral practice, but as long as slave acquisition and management are carried out so as to not deplete the resource faster than it replenishes itself, then it is sustainable.
A strange idea, I know.
Other examples of unsustainability:
A college student who wastes his time resource by partying all the year is engaged in an unsustainable practice simply because existing forces will bring this to an end, namely he will flunk out. It can’t go on indefinitely.
People who poison themselves with alcohol and drugs at a rate faster than their bodies can heal will eventually sicken and die. The poisoning cannot go on indefinitely, at least not at that rate.

By: UauS Tue, 08 Oct 2013 00:58:57 +0000 Good luck and G-d bless!

By: OneOfTheSheep Mon, 07 Oct 2013 22:49:52 +0000 The “measuring governments’, multilateral organizations’ and non-governmental organizations’ level of sustainability…” is the absolutely essential process of quantifying what they do in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. Without data there is no equitable or realistic understanding for comparison.

The lack of effective goals and meaningful review of what works and what doesn’t is precisely why education in the United States has achieved less and less at greater and greater expense over the years. Those in and of such process largely refuse to be accountable in any meaningful way to those who foot the bills.

You judge such process “bad” because it “misdirects resources”. Please. Since our society has yet to reach any discernible consensus as to social or environmental “good” or “bad”, most such decisions are a “best realistic compromise” at present which may be better at limiting harm than actually doing good. To infer that steps taken in the right direction, steps forward necessary and desirable to reaching a “best solution” are “bad” is inappropriate.

Any process of improvement will always a “work in process”. The many parameters pertinent are constantly changing. “social good” is merely an individual judgment, largely in the eye of the beholder. That’s not measurable, although the concept can be used to persuade people to “do the right thing” when all else fails.

It is folly to make the “perfect” the enemy of the “good”. Sometimes, in terms of time and money, the “good” is more achievable and sustainable in the “real world”. As the saying goes, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just stand there”.

The support and resources to achieve worthwhile long term goals incrementally over time will become available ONLY through reasoned debate and consensus. As of yet, there exists no political or social framework or forum for such citizen debate, but if the process were more obvious or easy it would have been completed long ago.

You complain of the inherent complexities and interdependence of “multinational corporations”. These are NOT the only form of profitable commerce, the “engine of prosperity” that makes a rising standard of living possible for consumers.

It should be obvious that this big blue marble has NO chance of ever offering SEVEN BILLION PLUS people the life today enjoyed by the successful (not all) members of western societies. So yes, what is good for western societies is NOT necessarily good for third world ones.

But I doubt you would volunteer to step forward and explain the “why” to them in specific and graphic cultural detail. You claim your company to be “…sustainable because we make decisions based on ground-level pragmatism, not lofty moral principles…because we have no other choice.”

Pragmatism and moral principles are NOT in fundamental conflict, as you suggest. Indeed you have harnessed the two quite nicely to good effect. Yet your words come across as negative, not positive.

Why do you not instead seek to point the way for others to follow in their own way at their own pace? It serves no useful purpose to judge and offend others less forward-looking.

Considering the literally countless challenges associated with “sustainability” it should be obvious that the “one size fits all” perspective is unrealistic in terms of either enterprise or society. That’s a good thing, actually.

It actually increases potential options of positive effect. To fully perceive what can and should be done, and when, the “glass half full” and “glass half empty” parable is always good place to start.

By: Mazer Mon, 07 Oct 2013 20:10:36 +0000 The book by Paul Hawken “The ecology of Commerce” goes into greater detail on the question of why should we do this.

By: ptiffany Mon, 07 Oct 2013 19:46:55 +0000 Thank you for lending an air of credibility to the buzzword of “sustainability”? Some would call it BS. The Emperor has no clothes…

You have a challenging job.