In 1987 the UN published a report entitled “Our Common Future” , also know as the Brundlandt Report. This document was a thorough global analysis that created a bigger awareness regarding the effects of the overexploitation of resources and consequently triggered a change of mindsets and policies.
An example of that, was the increasing demand that multinational corporations should take accountability for their business operations, which as a result forced large companies to adopt Corporate Social Responsibility strategies.
Although there is still no general consensus regarding the definition of sustainability, its premise applied to business is still inspired by the UN report, and defends an economical growth that will not jeopardize the environment or society. That was the base for what John Elkington coined, in 1994, as “triple bottom line”.
Sustainability only prevails when the economic, the environmental and the social values of an individual or organization do co-existing. Larger profitability margins shouldn’t justify environmental damage nor human right violations. Moreover, sustainability asks for and promotes the development of new ways of doing things or new products that could solve old problems. Hence, innovation is to a large degree entailed within sustainability.
Further reading: John Elkington – “Cannibals with Forks: the Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business”, Capstone, 1997
Kent E. Portney – “Sustainability”, MIT Press 2015