Sunday, April 10, 2011

What is Sustainability?

Some days back I came across an article on The National, UAE's leading newspaper about 'resident's awareness about word-Sustainable'. The article says, third of UAE's residents do not know the meaning of Sustainable! Truly speaking, it was not a surprise for me...but this is not a case of only UAE for sure! Being a Sustainability Professional, I always come across the queries professionally & socially. What exactly sustainability means? and what exactly the nature of my work? These kind of questions come from people from all over, not only in UAE, but people from UK, Australia, Singapore, name few. I will say in general, sustainability awareness is still not countable in societies all over the world. Coming across people, who believe 'sustainability & green is just a new fashion or bubble' is very regular thing for professionals like me!

Then what exactly is Sustainability?

Sustainability is not just part of HSE or CSR or some environmental certification or campaigns on industry level but all these are definitely part of Sustainability. But be sure Sustainability is not some slogans, signs, green coloured things or marketing tact! On personal or social level, Sustainability is not only recycling or saving resources, but all this is necessary for sustainability. Finally Sustainability is not for Saving Earth, but on the contrary in big picture view, sustainability is for saving humans & our existence on Earth...'Sustainability would be long term survival of humans on the Earth'! Sustainability is philosophy, initiative, measure, plan, goal, action, process, result, quality, quantity, lifestyle & all inclusive best practice! Sustain means 'maintain', 'support' or 'endure'. So one will ask, what should be sustainable? & for whom it should be sustainable?

Sustainability is broad term which deals with Environmental, Social & Economic dimensions. Sustainability could be for humans, not for environment...but human depends on environment, so it would be feasible to say 'we need to have a sustainable environment to have sustainable future for us'. But can we sacrifice economy or development or society to have sustainable future on Earth...of course not, so we can have a sustainable living, in which we can make sure environmental sustainability, social sustainability & economic sustainability to secure our all inclusive 'sustainability' for now & in future. Isn't it a win-win situation? Does 'sustainability' sound like 'harmony' or 'balance'?

The simple definition of sustainability is 'Improving quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-system'

According to definition by Brundtland Commission of United Nations "Sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"

Sustainability is a scientific research, it can be measured, accounted, audited, reported & has reference standards. Environmental Performance Index, Carbon Foot prints, Ecological footprint, Life cycle assessment, Air Quality index, ISO 14oo1, Green Building certifications, GDP per capita, Sustainable Governance Indicator, Biodiversity indicator .....these are few scientific techniques to deal with Environmental, Social & Economic parts of Sustainability.

Business to business approach to sustainability varies & of course not all places on Earth can have same social sustainability approach! But I am very positive that society & decision makers in industries are being more open to sustainability now than the past years. When professionally & socially people discuss with me not only some concepts in Sustainability but also paper recycling, energy saving, carbon footprint, some signboards they see here and there & how sustainability is mentioned in their children's syllabus. I say people are getting aware of Sustainability idea! Can't say beginning is half done, but first step matters a lot at the moment!

1 comment:

M. Prabhakar Rao said...

Good Observation. We need to simplify 'Sustainability Knowledge' take it up to the lowest rung of Society and only then we will be able to achieve permanent results. So for this Domain has become the exclusive club of some.

[Author of "Mayhem Of The Miserables!"]
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