Sustainability isn't an industry
By Mason Walker
New media manager
Mason Walker is founding associate editor of Sustainable Business Oregon.
Sustainability isn't an industry, but rather a way to do business.
The argument over the term 'sustainability' has been reignited this week in our focus on The Evolution of Sustainable Business (publishing on Friday). I think the entire philosophical discussion about whether the term is any good might be missing the point. Let's step back a moment.
There is no "green industry," nor are there "sustainability companies." There is, however, a growing subset of companies and industry groups whose lens for business success goes beyond strict bottom-line performance.
Sure, the word sustainability is clunky and doesn't always lend itself to clear communication. It's not the most useful word when speaking about anything specific. It has many varying definitions.
That being said, I think that this ambiguity actually strengthens its importance as a bucket term. I would argue that the word's widely accepted connotation — an ethos that places equal value in social health, natural conservation and economic viability — has only been strengthened in the recent business lexicon, especially among Millennials and emerging leaders who have been exposed to the value proposition that is sustainability in business.
It's an ethos with a lot of business momentum. It appears in seemingly dull ways, through tiny, iterative process improvements in specific industries that reduce energy use, water use and waste. It's also happening in sexy and exciting ways, like the coming-of-age of the electric vehicle, a renewable energy investment boom and the resurgence of local agriculture.
Despite its detractors, sustainability is gaining ground and it's likely that the word isn't going anywhere. But if it dies, I'm willing to guess that the group of businesses that are on board with the sustainability ethos will continue to innovate, grow and prosper, much to the delight of the global economy.
If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.