The most commonly used definition comes from what is known as the Brundtland Report published under the auspices of the United Nations, which states that sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” My own simple definition is that “sustainability means never having to say you’re sorry” – to your children, grandchildren, or the non-human children of Mother Nature.
A circular economy is a regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimized by slowing, closing, and narrowing energy and material loops; this can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and upcycling.
A carbon footprint is historically defined as the total emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.
The water footprint shows the extent of water use in relation to consumption by people. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of fresh water used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business.
The Chemical Footprint Project defines chemical footprint as the total mass of chemicals of high concern (CoHCs) in products sold by a company, used in its manufacturing operations and by its suppliers, and contained in packaging. Chemical footprinting is the process of assessing progress toward the use of safer chemicals and away from chemicals of high concern to human health or the environment. A chemical footprint can be used as a benchmark to document the actions an organization takes to advance the use of safer chemicals in its products and manufacturing operations.
Chemical alternatives assessment is a process through which chemicals of concern are evaluated through any of several processes that examine human health and environmental endpoints to determine the best alternative.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These 17 Goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.
The Natural Step is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation founded in Sweden in 1989 by scientist Karl-Henrik Robèrt. The Natural Step is also used when referring to the partially open source framework it developed. Following publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987, Robèrt developed The Natural Step framework, setting out the system conditions for the sustainability of human activities on Earth; Robèrt’s four system conditions are derived from a scientific understanding of universal laws and the aspects of our socio-ecological system, including the laws of gravity, the laws of thermodynamics and a multitude of social studies.
The triple bottom line (or otherwise noted as TBL or 3BL) is an accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental (or ecological) and financial. Some organizations have adopted the TBL framework to evaluate their performance in a broader perspective to create greater business value.
We all want our economy, our society, and our environment to survive and thrive ad infinitum, right?!
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