can you explain in layman’s terms what sustainability means?..

it’s been called “doing well by doing good,” and other phrases. And, I understand that it’s about finding the intersection between society and a business; but if i’m having a beer with a truck driver and he asks me “what do you do for a living?” i can tell the guy that “i work for companies to integrate society with those of the business in order to benefit both the company and communities where it operates….” but that’s a mouthful….



  1. 0 Votes

    A critical thing when writing and speaking is to be sensitive to your listener. On the Internet, that can be tough to visualize, but when talking to one person, you need to make an effort, if you want your statements heard and appreciated.

    Your explanation to a college professor should be very different than that to a truck driver.

    Many people in America are concerned with the bottom line: What’s in it for me? So you address that: “Hey, half the oil in your truck is recycled. If it wasn’t, you’d be paying full price for fresh oil from Saudi Arabia. But we can keep recycling the same oil forever. That’s sustainability!”

    A college graduate, on the other hand, already has idea of what sustainability is. Their opinion is going to be heavily flavored by studies pushed by the political party they belong to. A Democrat is probably going to be friendly — assuming that whatever you’re doing is good. So you just have to tell them some recent success (or horror) story you’re familiar with.

    If you are talking with a Republican, you’re more likely to get resistance, because ecology is not a strong part of the party platform. A well-educated Republican may have a reasonable foundation that is wary about ecology.

    So you’ll have to do some serious thinking, here. You’ll want an example or an explanation that they haven’t heard before, so they don’t just come up with some stock, rote response that they’ve already rehearsed.

    You say: “Did you know that Abraham Lincoln signed the first act protecting Yosemite? That the United States set up the first national park in the world?” (The examples aren’t exactly on-target, but they don’t have to be. You’re trying to get someone to think out of their mold, creatively, positively.)

    Then you might slip into … “There are some lands that should never change.”  You’re going to get agreement, there.

    Then you slip into … “Some lands need be permanently commerically useful. That’s where I come in.” 

  2. 0 Votes

    Sustainability is simply the ability to keep doing something indefinitely without depleting your resources. For example: you can clear-cut a forest and leave it barren, which is unsustainable, or manage it more effectively to produce lumber annually and keep growing. The same goes for a population of fish, deer, or other game. You can go out and kill all of them at once or you can take only a certain number of them each year and allow them to regenerate. If you are talking about electricity generation, then anything involving large quantities of fossil fuel is unsustainable because it takes millions of years to regenerate it. A sustainable source of power like wind or solar is one that we will still be able to use several thousand years into the future.

  3. 0 Votes

    Sustainability is basically the ability to maintain a process of consumption without ever running out of a resource. It was explain fairly well above, but I will elaborate further. In business terms, spending more money than you take in is unsustainable. This creates debt, which can be avoided for a while, but eventually the bill comes due; if you owe a lot of money and cannot pay it back, you go bankrupt and end up with nothing. This is a reason that things like business and government debt are such bad things, as unsustainable debt can potentially destroy whatever entity owes the money. Having a practice or process that is sustainable is staying within one’s limits and not going beyond what your resources will gain you, also keeping in mind that your resources need to regenerate to continue providing for you. 

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