The idea of sustainability needs revision

In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development for the first time, used the term Sustainability by defining it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

What’s interesting is that the terms such as sustainability, green, eco-friendly etc, don’t have uniform definitions that consumers can use as a benchmark while taking buying decisions. For instance, the term “organic” comes with a certification process in some countries for producers of food and other agricultural products, but sustainability-centric terminology comes with no such government-mandated guidelines. In the absence of guidelines, brand owners can label just about anything “sustainable”. We don’t have a sustainability matrix, or, for that matter any guidelines to be followed certified by the government body, and the brands use this to their advantage. Here’s a paper by Sujith Surendran and Tabrez Ahmed that helps us in understanding the need of a definition of the term (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2852926).

My casual search on the internet on ISO certification on sustainability landed me to the following information (https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso:guide:82:ed-2:v1:en):

“Sustainability is (a) state of the global system including environmental, economic and social aspects, in which the needs are present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own goals”.

Sustainable Development is defined as “development that meets the environmental, social and economic needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own goals”.

Needless to mention here that the definitions above can be twisted to suit the situation. Research firms differentiate between their analysis parameters to create the differentiation, thus getting the client on-board. Both these definitions mentioned above are, according to me, vague and allow the users of the term (read Marketers) to fit it in their existing state, leading to greenwashing campaigns. “Greenwashing” is the practice of companies using advertising to promote an environmentally friendly image without actually doing anything to benefit the environment. As a marketing strategy, it exists to promote the image of companies, rather than truly consider the impact these agencies have on our planet. Here’s an amazing article from Bloomberg|Quint that may help you understand the seriousness of the issue.

https://www.bloombergquint.com/bq-blue-exclusive/companies-serious-about-reaching-net-zero-carbon-should-do-this-says-harvards-gandhi

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Sandeep Bhasin

Ph.D. in Economics, Passionate about Game Theory, a biker, a Father, Son, a brother, a husband, a friend, and unfriend … just like you!