In an ecological point of view, sustainability is the property of an ecosystem to remain diverse and productive indefinitely.
But currently the most discussed concept is the one of Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development became known worldwide after the World’s first Earth Summit in Rio in 19921, since it was included in its final document called Agenda 21. In 2005 the World Summit on Social Development2 stated the three components of sustainable development: economic development; social development and environmental protection. Sustainable development is the ability to meet human development goals maintaining the capacity of the planet to supply natural resources and natural services needed by society and economy.
These concepts have an important reflection on business and industries. The competent management of limited resources and the reduction of the environmental impacts of human activity is increasingly crucial to business decision-making. According to the Financial Times3 business sustainability is a process by which companies manage their financial, social and environmental risk, obligations and opportunities. Therefore, it requires that companies observe the principles of sustainable development. Consequently, for industrial development to be sustainable, it must address significant issues, such as: economic efficiency (innovation, prosperity, productivity), social equity (poverty, community, health and wellness, human rights) and environmental responsibility (climate change, land use, biodiversity, use of resources, waste).
Sustainable activities can deliver benefits for the business as well as the community. There are many benefits of applying sustainable strategies for a business including:
- Reduction of energy and fuel costs;
- Innovation and improvement ideas from all levels in the enterprise;
- Reducing waste disposal and trade waste costs;
- Improving processes and efficiency;
- Avoiding or reducing the number of incidents, emergencies or injuries;
- Reducing risks of costs from legal proceedings, compensation, rehabilitation, clean up, environmental mitigation;
- Improving profile and reduced risk of negative public opinion;
- Opportunities in “green” markets.
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