By - Nov 1, 08:00 AM Comments [0]

By Lucas Weingarten

Regardless of your politics, it is imminently clear that the environment and business collide in various ways. On the one hand, companies and their managers operate with the best of intentions with the ultimate goal ever-present in the decisions that are made, i.e., to survive and to be profitable. It is those two elements (survivability and profitability) that define sustainability in a free market economy.

That term, sustainability, has gotten a lot of attention of late, but what does it really mean? Is it universally definable or does business understand it differently than, say, the EPA? Here are a few definitions for you beyond the one mentioned above:

1. Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
2. The ability to maintain balance of a certain process or state in any system.
3. Creating long-term shareholder value by identifying opportunities and managing the risks associated with economic, environmental, and social developments.
4. Using resources at a rate at which they can be replenished.
5. Not living beyond your means.
6. The capacity to endure.

In the end, after the semantic arguments have all been hashed out, we are left with a basic, common definition that is easily understood. I won’t give it to you because you intrinsically already know what it is. Don’t you?
Now let’s look at the other hand. Some can argue that the way we conduct business is NOT sustainable—in every sense, in every definition. One does not have to go far to find a multitude of instances that underscore incompetent systems on a global scale.

There are myriad reasons as to why we find ourselves in such a predicament and why so many are trying to figure out ways to get us out of it. I’d like to focus on one reason in particular, however. The uniqueness and influence of this “One” cannot be overstated. What’s more is the irony of its role: it has both expeditiously led us down the path of unsustainability while at the same time it is the only thing that can lead us out of it. Guesses?

~Article provided by the courtesy of Kaplan GMAT

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