“SUSTAINABILITY” - What does it mean in Business?

Sustainability is the new miracle word in the world of business. It is a business imperative, an intrinsic part of the core business system and a decisive component for sustainable and inclusive growth.

Sustainability has various meanings and annotations. But what does it exactly mean to the business world?

A common depiction of sustainability that may be applicable for all business enterprises is, it is a concept of adopting business activities and approaches that will move the companies/corporates towards three goals - environmental security, social wellness, and economic up-gradation at the same time. It is a triple bottom line approach where economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, and social sustainability are the three important components and sustainable development is the ultimate goal. For businesses, this includes corporate social responsibility and citizenship along with improved management of corporate, social and environmental impacts and enhanced stakeholder engagement. This depiction captures the spirit of sustainable development as originally proposed by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) and recognizes that economic development should cater to the needs of an enterprise and its stakeholders, while simultaneously protecting the natural resources, ecosystem and negative effects on investment decisions and customer satisfaction.

In nutshell, with the keen aim of sustainable development of an organization, “sustainability” in business generally addresses:

  • The effect business has on the environment
  • The effect business has on society
  • The effect business has on its own industrial cycle

So what business should do to be sustainable?

To achieve the aim of a sustainable world, in the current scenario where the business has a vital role to play in multiple ways, the role of businesses should shift from mere “profit generators” to dynamic “sustainability achievers”. They should act proactively as “environmentally friendly entities” or “socially responsible companies”. Industries and organizations in each sector should know how to plan, design and strategize organizational practices in the management area, operational practices in the operations area and communicational practices in the marketing area. Then only they can bring in practices, solutions, policies, and investments that are designed to contribute to the overall goals of sustainability and sustainable development. Organizations that approach three issues - the challenges, opportunities, and uncertainties well and in a strategic manner will be way ahead and on a competitive edge over others to march towards sustainable leadership. For its effective execution, the sustainability concept must be articulated in terms and language that are familiar to the business world.

Are you interested to know how to integrate your organization’s goals, missions or values to develop sustainable growth opportunities while mitigating your sustainability risks & challenges? Do you want to align your business strategies with national and global imperatives and thus build, maintain or improve reputation and meet customer’s expectations for sustainable growth?

Come and explore our newly launched PGC online program “Environmental Sustainability, Social Responsibility, and Sustainable Development”. For additional information, please visit IMT CDL Official Site

By Dr.Rasmi Patnaik

Assistant Professor, Centre of Excellence for Sustainability, Growth and Development, IMT Nagpur 

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