Building a More Sustainable World

EM—November 2018: A look at sustainability with respect to industry and corporations. Experts discuss the topic of sustainability and weigh in on various aspects and tools companies can utilize to build or improve their own sustainability culture.

by Jennifer K. Kelley

Merriam-Webster defines sustainable as “a: relating to or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged and b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods”. Unfortunately, there are many examples, both in
industry and in our own communities, where the defined method or lifestyle has failed to be achieved. Examples are those with broad impact such as the Great Pacific garbage patch (first discovered in 1988 the plastic is now estimated to weigh 80,000 metric tons!), our own personal use of resources and disposable items, and habitat loss or destruction, to those examples from specific instances such as Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Chernobyl (1986 catastrophic nuclear event), Bhopal gas tragedy (considered one of the world's worst industrial disaster), and the list goes on.

Short of halting all industry and returning to a hunter-gatherer society or finding an alternative Earth and moving the entire population there; more progress will need to be made toward creating a sustainable world. Taking a positive approach to this topic: humans are very innovative, and these problems have the potential to create business opportunities such as more efficient or renewable power sources, better battery technology, improved recycling technologies, etc. In addition to creating new technologies, we are capable of building cultures inside our companies and our communities that can drive toward sustainability.

Wikipedia defines sustainability as “the process of maintaining change in a balanced fashion, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations”. The articles in this issue present how companies can improve within the different domains of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social.