The word sustainability is derived from the Latin word sustinere (tenere, to hold; sus, up). According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2015), “sustainable is something able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed.”
In an ecological point of view, sustainability is the property of an ecosystem that is to remain diverse and productive indefinitely. Currently the most discussed concept is that of sustainable development.
Sustainable development has become worldwide know after the World’s first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. In 2005 the World Summit on Social Development was held and stated the three components of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. Sustainable development is the ability to meet human development goals by maintaining the capacity of the planet to continue to supply natural resources and natural services needed by society and the economy.
These concepts have an important reflection on business and industries. The competent management of limited resources and the reduction of the environmental impacts of human activity is increasingly crucial to business decision-making.
According to the Financial Times business sustainability is a process by which companies manage their financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. Therefore, it requires companies to observe the principles of sustainable development. Consequently, for industrial development to be sustainable, it must address the significant issues, such as: economic efficiency (innovation, prosperity, productivity), social equity (poverty, community, health and wellness, human rights) and environmental responsibility (climate change, land use, biodiversity, use of resources, waste).
Sustainable activities can deliver benefits for a business as well as the community. There are many benefits of applying sustainable strategies for a business including:
- Innovation and improvement ideas from all levels in the enterprise;
- Reducing waste disposal and trade waste costs;
- Improving processes and efficiency;
- Avoiding or reducing the number of incidents, emergencies or injuries;
- Reducing risks of costs from legal proceedings, compensation, rehabilitation, clean up, environmental mitigation;
- Improving profile and reduced risk of negative public opinion;
- Opportunities in “green” markets.
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