What is Sustainable Business Really?

Fall 2012 – When people ask me what I want to do, I tell them I would like to work for a sustainable business. Now some individuals (although very few) know exactly what I am talking about; however, the large majorities look at me dumbstruck. So for all of you that want to work in this field (or at least understand it) I am here to give you advice on defining and educating yourself on sustainable business.

First off, what is a “sustainable business?” According to Financial Times Lexicon, “Business sustainability is often defined as managing the triple bottom line – a process by which firms manage their financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. These three impacts are sometimes referred to as profits, people and planet.” In simpler terms, those who run a sustainable business focus not only on profit, but also on their business’s social and environmental impacts. These types of organizations enable healthy environmental and social development, as well as beneficial economic growth. Another even simpler definition comes from FORBES magazine, which defines sustainability in business as, “what’s good for the company is also good for the planet, and vice-versa.”

You may be wondering what companies are considered sustainable. Unfortunately, this question can be difficult to answer. This is because many companies use “green washing” techniques, which manipulate consumers into thinking they are environmentally conscious, when in fact they are not. However, there still are numerous companies implementing environmental and socially conscious initiatives into their business practices. According to that FORBES article titled “Ranking the World’s Most Sustainable Companies,” General Electric and PG & E Corporation are just two of many companies that are environmentally conscious.

One final question you may have is if there are many jobs in the sustainable business field. The answer? Yes! Many companies are recognizing the need to conserve our earth’s natural resources. Furthermore, employees are now taking a company’s environmental and social behavior into consideration before accepting job offers. According to the New York Times Green Blog titled “Business Studies Become Environmentally Friendly,” the demand for sustainability related jobs is up 40% over the last year. So not only is this a field where you can make an impact, but it’s one where you will also be able to find a job.

Hopefully, you now understand how the environment and business can be connected in a beneficial way (and will be able to explain it to your fellow peers). Overall, many businesses are “going green,” and it is up to you whether or not you join their efforts. However, I encourage you to support, apply or start sustainable businesses, because they can prove to be a very promising career path.

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