What is Sustainability Management?

A widely accepted definition of sustainability management does not exist as of today. The word “sustainability” in the private sector means longevity. The term “sustainable development” refers to “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Our Common Future, 1987). Organizations in both the private and public sector can devise models and systems to live in the present without jeopardizing the future. A system or process that is sustainable can be repeatedly carried out without negative environmental effects or high costs to anyone in the value chain (Senge, et. al. 2008, p. 9).

Another common definition is that sustainability management is a strategic management approach that considers an organization’s impacts on the natural environment, human resources and external stakeholders, while achieving profitable results that ensure longevity. Moreover, the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), coined by John Elkington, defines sustainability management based on accounting terminology as the ability to manage for society, environment, and the economy (Elkington, 2000). Organizations manage profit as the bottom line. TBL ensures that strategies integrate profit not as the sole measure of success, but also resource efficiency for people and the planet. Strategies encompass considerations based on long-term outcomes that strive for positive impacts on people, planet, and profit, which are commonly known as the 3 P’s (people, planet, profit) or 3 E’s (social equity, environment, economy).