It was 1987 when the term sustainable development made headlines with the report “Our Common Future”, better known as the “Brundtland Report”, published by the International Commission on Environment and Development.
The 300-page report, which can now also be consulted online, analyses in detail the environmental and social problems arising from the exploitation of natural resources and social and economic inequalities and offers a clear and concise definition of what is meant by sustainable development, i.e., “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
From this first important document, the concept was further refined and led to the identification of the three pillars on which sustainable development must be based: the environmental pillar, the social pillar, and the economic pillar. Therefore, not only attention to the environment and people; economic sustainability also plays a crucial role, as a matter of fact it integrates with the other two pillars, optimally complementing them to lead society towards more respectful and equitable lifestyles, without sacrificing profit.
Sustainable economic growth in business: is it possible?
The fundamental principles of the three pillars, identified by the European Union in the ESG criteria, i.e., Environmental, Social and Governance, can be used to their advantage by Nations as well as by companies, both large, small, or medium-sized.
Pursuing a sustainable economy can lead to significant gains, as America’s success in decoupling GDP growth from environmental pollution shows us.
On the other hand, if natural resources came to an end and society was no longer able to economically sustain the capitalist system, corporate growth could only be short-lived.
Economic growth that only aims at profit, without concern for the environment and society, is therefore not contemplated today. On the contrary, Elkington’s 3Ps strategy, based on corporate management that takes profit, people and the planet into account, can support greater internal growth and bring long-term benefits, also from an economic standpoint.
Sustainable development for business growth
For sustainable development to be both fair and profitable, it is therefore necessary to adopt solutions that consider the well-being of the environment, society, but also the company’s economy.
On the environmental pillar, companies can work on reducing their carbon footprint, using sustainable energy, reducing waste, reusing, and recycling.
On the social side, a good corporate sustainable strategy must break down internal inequalities, encourage employee inclusion and listening, but must also address the impact that products, throughout their life cycle, have on people.The economic aspect must be based on transparent governance, on an economy that is as circular as possible, and on compliance with regulations. In addition, the use of state-of-the-art technology can help control the entire economic cycle, bring the company closer to its customers and further reduce the impact on the environment.