Two emerging buzz words have accompanied growing eco awareness in our society: Sustainability and Green. As many find the terms confusing, we share within our sustainable business programs the difference from our perspective.
Simply put, green is a micro concept. We deal with green in our everyday lives with things like clothing, food, transportation, and a long list of "how to go green today" suggestions. Green is a pretty easy concept to understand in part because it’s relative and tangible. It is measured on a scale from dirty to clean or eco friendly vs. traditional product. Also, tangible eco actions are oftentimes associated with being green, as in recycling.
On the other hand, sustainability is a macro concept that applies more broadly to entire systems and infrastructures. The term can be somewhat elusive, but can be characterized as it spans a multitude of topics. A challenge for many in defining sustainability is agreeing upon a common definition. For instance, when you think of "Sustainability" what comes up for you? It is so big and broad in scope that it is difficult to grasp? Or, is any one definition of it too small or limiting?
This dual state presents a number of challenges when attempting to focus the business sustainability conversation. As we've seen, too often the business world sees only the challenges related to business sustainability forgoing the opportunity to define what sustainability means to the organization and its stakeholders.
The post Sustainability: Care Instructions for our Planet offers a refresher on the common definitions of Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainability, and green, with the distinction that all of these terms are not exclusive to "the environment." Another post, Sustainability Definitions 101 shares additional information. At Taiga Company, when we discuss business sustainability within our consulting practice, we speak of sustainability as a powerful organizing approach to deliver long term business value while simultaneously addressing current social, environmental, and resource issues. Does that sound elusive to you? Well, how our clients leverage that approach to define what sustainability means to their organization and stakeholders is where the magic happens.
Being green tends to be singular focused; whereas, sustainability, is broader in scope engaging stakeholder relationships closest and most heavily invested in the success of the business.
When it comes right down to it, how you define green and sustainability is only important in that you or your business takes action. "Deeds, not words."