Sustainable Business is a non-traditional strategy that strives to maximize efficiency and effectiveness while restoring environmental quality, building social equity and increasing long-term profitability. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, industry has intensified environmental degradation by "efficiently" exploiting natural resources and releasing unfathomable quantities of hazardous pollutants into the biosphere. On the other hand, business has spent billions of dollars to comply with governmental regulations aimed at minimizing contamination by prescribing the amount of toxic substances that can enter the air, water and landfills. An adversarial relationship has developed between business people and environmentalists, each seeing the other as a main source of the world’s problems.
Emerging just under two decades ago, a movement began within the business sector to change the way companies operate. People began to recognize that environmental degradation and commerce do not have to go hand in hand. Some of the changes have included:
- The reduction and, in some cases, elimination of hazardous materials from industrial processes
- The adoption of the concept that waste equals food
- Equitable treatment of employees, which in turn increases productivity and worker retention
- Operating as a responsible member of the community
The same business practices that improve social and environmental capital have been shown to also improve long-term profitability. When implemented, sustainable business practices provide an avenue to achieve mutual benefits in the natural world, the community, and the economy. This movement has given traction to the next industrial revolution, where business people and environmentalists are sharing the common goal of improving the global community, environment and economy for present and future generations.
As of yet, no truly sustainable companies exist. Sustainability is and will continue to be a very difficult goal to achieve as we all exist and operate within the foundations of unconscious commerce. However, many companies are working toward sustainability today.
Our website, offers an assortment of resources that we hope will aid students, consumers, and business people in the transition to a sustainable world. "This is going to take us all, and it is going to take forever. But then, that's the point" (William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle).
- Sustainable Business Concepts
- Businesses Working Toward Sustainability
- Green Buildings
- Resources for Implementation
- Building Social Capital
Funded by the Steelcase Foundation of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Header photo by Carol Y. Swinehart, courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant Extension
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