Sustainability has been making its way into the mainstream market for a number of years. Sustainability coordinators and other green-centrtic positions are increasingly common, from the Google campus to universities nationwide. But what does sustainability actually mean and does having a green representative in your workplace really increase environmental consciousness and behavior?
According to a recent study by Net Impact, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, employees who engage in sustainability activities at the office reported increased work satisfaction by 2:1. Furthermore, the study found that “65% of students expect their future job will enable them to make a positive social and environmental impact.” This is a big switch from a generation ago where environmental responsibility barely made it to lunch break conversation. Net Impact’s study also determined that “social and environmental impact are issues that the emerging generation of employees want to be connected to.”
It’s no surprise then that given the paradigm shift in demand for a greener workplace and ethical business practices, companies and academic institutions alike are responding with positions, coursework and degrees within these areas. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), commonly referred to as the triple bottom line, or people, planet, profit, have become mainstream business terms, whereas before they existed predominantly in niche areas associated with nonprofits or companies with a specific responsibility focus. Additionally, more and more MBA programs are offering sustainability degrees and applicants to these programs often demand a unique, comprehensive and green approach to business as usual, or they look elsewhere.
While there are critics to the sustainability buzz, citing the movement exists ultimately to maintain the market-driven status quo while distracting us from making significant environmental changes in our world, the subject remains up for debate: is it better to incorporate sustainability metrics into an organization’s bottom line rather than do nothing at all? The planet clearly cannot sustain our current demand for resources — climate change being the ultimate example of this — and sustainable business practice is just one example of how to still operate within a limited resource structure. Nevertheless, in the end, we also need to learn how to cut back entirely and live with less. Sustainability is an important component to the larger equation, yet only accounts for a fraction of what truly needs to be done to maintain a healthy planet.
Photo Credit: Iacchus, Sunray