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What is sustainable business?

October 1, 2008 – 9:40 am by Keenan

To many, sustainable business is synonymous with green business. In fact, the environment is only one aspect of sustainability. It takes much more than environmentally-friendly practices for a business to be truly sustainable.

In order to figure out what makes a business sustainable, perhaps we should first define “sustainable.” Webster’s defines sustainable as: “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” Fair enough. Now we know that a sustainable business is one that does not deplete or permanently damage its resources. So what are some things that, when “depleted or permanently damaged,” a business cannot do without?

The most obvious thing is money. With no money, a company cannot survive for long. Demand for the company’s product is also necessary. If there’s no demand, the company will quickly flounder, so economic sustainability is important. If the resources needed to make the product disappear, the company will either have no ability to make the product or will have to change resources. Continually depleting and changing resources is decidedly not a sustainable tactic. Your labor force must also be sustainable, so sustaining the local community and society is important.

The list of “resources” that a business cannot survive without goes on and on. In order for a business to continue in the long term, all of these factors must remain. For this reason, it is important for a business to be sustainable not just environmentally, but in all areas.

The three pillars of sustainability.

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  1. [...] models! I’m going to steal one of Verteeblog’s graphs now. Sustainability can be interpreted in many different ways, but to me it means that whatever [...]

    Pingback by Positioning Tech IT Easy, continued « Tech IT Easy — October 3, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

  2. Interesting graphic - very thought provoking. I’m very much interesting in Corporate Social Responsibility because I approach some of my investing through SRI (Socially Responsible Investing).

    That graphic you used will be very helpful in my decision making process.

    Comment by Allan — October 13, 2008 @ 5:51 am

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