What is sustainability?

One of the broadest definitions of sustainability is that of the United Nations which defines it as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Within this definition, they have charted out 17 Sustainable Development Goals which have to do with anything from reducing poverty to climate action.

A Harvard Business School Online blog post, defined sustainability in business as “..without negatively impacting the environment, community, or society as a whole. Sustainability in business generally addresses two main categories: The effect business has on the environment and the effect business has on society.” The University of Washington and UCLA had slightly broader definitions which appeared to be more of a campus wide definition not related to their business schools per se. In the end, they all had similar ideas in common such as doing no harm to both society and the environment.

Image source: Sustainability Hub

The Ellen MacArthur foundation, a prominent non-profit inspiring sustainable practices takes it a step further with the circular economy concept defined as a “framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution. It is based on three principles, driven by design: eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials (at their highest value), and regenerate nature.”

In the field of sustainability in business, you hear so much about reducing waste or reducing harm. Is that the best we can do as businesses, to reduce harm?  I think not. Will it be hard to create what I call a sustainable-native business? Yes, but it is worth every minute of time we all spend on it. 

At plantbaby, we believe the heart of what makes a business truly sustainable is whether growth is fully decoupled with environmental and societal harm, and instead, such business growth regenerates our environment and the societies within it. Every decision we make is one that is couched in whether, at scale, that decision leads to regeneration or degeneration to humans or the planet. If the answer is degeneration, such practice is not sustainable in our view and alternatives are explored.

At plantbaby, we obviously love, honor, and cherish plants of all kinds. We also really dig how plants themselves in the context of a circular economy need not change. They are perfect just as they are. What other product regenerates itself with new plant babies or new growth such as a houseplant or perennial? Does the plant industry need to take an inventory of its practices used in plant creation, delivery, and maintenance? Absolutely. We’ll be breaking this down in future articles. Stay with us.

 Author: Jay Galligher, Founder

Seattle, WA

NOTE:  I do not take money from any organization for writing this article.

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