What is Sustainability?

what is sustainability

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability by definitionis to make the life of humanity permanent while ensuring the continuity of production and diversity. In other words, sustainability is meeting our own needs without compromising the needs of future generations.

Now that we have answered the question of what is sustainability, let's examine the details about sustainability.

When Did Sustainability Enter Our Lives?

The public opinion is the first to use the word sustainability, working under the United Nations. World Commission on Environment and Development Published in 1987 “Our Shared Future” met through the report.

The report, which was published to find solutions to the problems arising from rapid industrialization and population growth, was a warning about the negative consequences of economic development and globalization on the environment. The biggest factor in the widespread adoption of this report and the implementation of sustainability was the ozone hole caused by human activity over Antarctica, which was detected for the first time in 1984.

contained in the report sustainability definition: “Humanity; It has the ability to make development sustainable by meeting daily needs without compromising the ability of nature to respond to the needs of future generations.” made in the form.

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At the point we have reached today, although there is a general consensus that the world's resources and the environment are moving towards the limit of depletion as a result of human activities, it is widely believed that sustainability can only be achieved by using the resources provided by nature at a speed that will allow them to be regenerated spontaneously.

What Are the Components of Sustainability?

Although the first thing that comes to mind when talking about sustainability is the protection of the environment, the concept of sustainability is actually a holistic approach that includes ecological, economic and social dimensions.


Sustainability has 3 basic components. These components are; environmental protection, economic growth and social development. These concepts should be managed in a balanced way in order to ensure sustainability.

environmental Protection

Sustainability focuses on the fact that the resources in the environment and nature are exhaustible as a basic principle, and therefore it focuses on using these resources with rational approaches. The integrity and flexibility of ecosystems is preserved.

Economic Growth

Sustainability focuses on providing economic growth that will bring prosperity to societies without harming the environment. While the consumption of goods and services increases, it is aimed to increase human welfare.

Social Development

Sustainability supports social development by focusing on achieving a satisfactory level of health, quality of life and education for all societies. In addition to enriching and strengthening human relations, it is ensured that people reach their goals individually and as a group.

what is sustainability

When all these components work in harmony, the potential to meet human wants and needs now and in the future increases, and with it sustainable development is provided. According to the principles of sustainable development, society should not allow welfare to decline over time.

Why Sustainability Matters

Now that we answered the question of what is sustainability, the importance of sustainabilityIt is also worth mentioning.

The increase in the energy need of the rapidly growing industry with the industrial revolution has led to the use of non-renewable natural resources such as oil and coal. The increasingly dominant sector of industry has led to the rapid and larger addition of new environmental degradations created by the agriculture-based economy of the people. Factors such as rapid industrialization and, as a result, modern urbanization and rapid population growth have led to air, water and soil pollution, as well as a decrease in biodiversity, resulting in more serious problems such as soil loss and desertification.

All living things are parts of an ecosystem in which they interact with each other and with other inanimate objects. All parts of an ecosystem are intricately interconnected. Therefore, if one part of the ecosystem is destroyed or damaged, related consequences will occur in other parts of the ecosystem.

This disruptive effect of human beings on the natural environment has outweighed the self-healing rate of the natural environment, and at this point, the need to act without disturbing the balance of the ecosystem has emerged.

Sustainability Examples: A Long-Term Vision

Sustainability encourages people, politicians, businesses and future generations to make long-term decisions, taking into account. Acting sustainably covers a ten-year time frame (rather than a few months or years) and considers more than short-term profit or loss. A few different examples of sustainability, depending on the industry, are as follows:

Technology: Examples of Sustainability in Technology

sustainability examples

The use of electronic devices is increasing day by day. However, these devices are made from Earth minerals mined by the mining industry. Mining can be a very polluting industry and the development of new fields certainly has an impact on deforestation.

Therefore, being sustainable in the field of technology requires using your devices for a long time. If you want sustainable resistance, you have to resist replacing your smartphone every two years! It's also part of sustainability to make sure you dispose of them responsibly, as they can be very polluting if not disposed of properly.

Read: Eco Advice: Delete Files You Don't Need From The Cloud!

In the near future sustainability in technologywill be about how to dispose of the (mostly) lithium-ion batteries of electric cars and solar panels. Companies that focus on the recycling, vehicle maintenance and replacement of these batteries will also come to the fore.

Fashion: Examples of Sustainability in Fashion

sustainable fashion

Fashion, especially fast fashion, often focuses on speed and low cost to introduce new collections. However, the problem with this industry is its negative environmental impact. On the one hand, fast-growing cotton often requires the use of industrial, toxic chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) that cause soil pollution and depletion and water eutrophication.

On the other hand, there is a lot of textile waste, and many clothes are made from synthetic fibers that leach into the ocean as microplastics when washed. If a textile company makes garments from durable materials, uses sustainably produced cotton, applies circular economy principles in its value chain, and uses less toxic chemicals: it shows that it is environmentally responsible. These topics will be an example of sustainability in the fashion industry.

Read: Fast Fashion and Its Impact on the World

Read: Kanye West Announces They Will Make Shoes From Seaweed

Sustainability is also about being socially responsible. In general, we hardly see the fashion industry taking on this responsibility. Notice that most labels indicate that the clothes were produced in remote areas such as China, Bangladesh or Vietnam. There are also many documentaries on this subject.

Aside from the pollution from handling these items, the manpower behind the manufacture of these garments is most worrisome. People in these countries (mostly women and children) often earn very low wages and work in poor conditions. They hardly improve their social standing and often continue to work just to pay the bills and survive. According to an Oxfam report, this contributes greatly to the inequality we see around the world as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in 2018.

Transportation: What is Sustainability in Transportation?

sustainability in transportation

A report from the IPPC states that 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, and most are largely from passenger vehicles. Yes, contrary to what many believe, airplanes, cargo ships and even trucks are not the main contributors to CO2 emissions, and cars can take most of the blame. Therefore, if someone is not driving a car with 4 or 5 passengers, then using public transport, especially trains, but also buses are more sustainable options. However, just walking or cycling is the most environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative.

Read: Sustainability in Transportation

Today, there are even more sophisticated solutions to reduce the pollution caused by moving. At the vehicle level, the popularity and industry development of alternatives such as electric cars (even hydrogen cars) or electric scooters is growing at a high rate. At the same time, solutions like carpooling are great alternatives, where drivers can save some money (and pollution). It's also undeniable that more companies are allowing their employees to work from home or remotely, thereby saving polluting miles.

Zero Waste as an Example of Sustainability

sustainable consumption

The zero waste movement is a lifestyle that encourages people to use all kinds of resources in a circular way, just as the world naturally does. Therefore, the ultimate goal of this philosophy is to prevent resources from following a linear path and becoming garbage in the oceans or in landfills. For this, people must reject what they do not need, reduce what they buy, reuse and recycle or compost.

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Associated with this lifestyle is also a minimalist lifestyle, in which people are often invited to leave behind and reject what they do not need. The movement is also well known to people who bring their own jars or bags to shops to buy products like chickpeas, rice or liquid soap. The goal is clear: no trash in the house, reducing the use of plastic.

Food and Agriculture: Examples of Sustainability in the Food Sector

sustainability in food

A company that tries to grow its products without (or less) toxic pesticides and instead focuses on organic farming and biomimicry practices is definitely less polluting. If it pays its employees fair wages and still manages to be competitive in the market, that company has managed to be responsible when it comes to people and the planet.

Workplace: Examples of Sustainability in the Workplace

sustainability in the workplace

Workplaces can also be organized in sustainable ways. For example, companies that invest in new technologies, go paperless, or provide training and conditions for recycling to their employees are cautious about waste management.

At the same time, conscious use of air conditioners; Opening the blinds when there is sunlight, avoiding excessive heat and cold settings, avoiding plastic cutlery, and carrying mugs and glasses instead of using disposable plastic or paper cups are also good ways to have a sustainable workplace. But there's nothing like having a sustainability mindset at the heart of an organization's core operations and creating a sustainability strategy that measures impacts and creates mitigation solutions.

Operations and Value Chains: Where is Sustainability?

sustainability in production

Let's analyze sustainability in operations by imagining a company with very high energy costs because they are steel producers. If economically viable, the company could install solar panels and run its operations on that energy. In the long run it will likely be a medium to long term investment that will be economically attractive. At the same time, the company may prefer renewable energy sources where the electricity grid runs mostly on fossil fuels.

The raw materials used, how and where they are procured, whether the products are designed with eco-design principles in mind, or distribution optimization are also areas open to improvement when it comes to sustainability.

A Company's Strategy (CSR): Where Is Its Sustainability?

corporate social responsibility

A company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a strategy that integrates the policies and practices of companies that want to create value on people, planet and profit issues. Therefore, companies with a sustainability mindset are concerned with caring for their workplaces and striving to be environmentally friendly throughout their value chain, as well as with social issues such as gender equality, happiness at work or caring for communities affected by their activities.

They also do not underestimate the financial aspect of business, where profit is a fundamental condition for organizations to survive – however, this is not the main reason or main purpose of these businesses to exist.

Sustainable Cities: What Does It Mean to Be a Sustainable City?

sustainable city

Sustainable cities can be considered as cities with strong social, economic and environmental performance. They score well when it comes to air pollution, availability of public transport, number of educated and working people, percentage of green space, energy consumption or access to drinking water.

Read: Toyota To Build Sustainable Smart City

Read: Mexico Will Build a Self-Sufficient, Zero Carbon, Smart Forest City with Food and Energy

Sustainable cities must be better prepared to face the challenges of urban areas as society evolves and climate change events become more frequent and intense. They are more flexible and adapt to unpredictable conditions. The most respected forum on sustainable and green cities C40 network.

Waste Management: Is There Sustainability in Waste Management?

sustainable waste management

A factory that takes care of its industrial waste and does not dispose of it in a nearby river or land means it is operating sustainably.

At the same time, companies looking for less polluting packaging alternatives are also good sustainability models to follow. Because plastics pollute the land and sea and harm ecosystems and biodiversity, it's a good idea for businesses to invest in new designs that allow products to be more durable and even reproducible. Moreover, using biodegradable materials can also be considered as a good alternative.

Read: What is Biodegradable Material?

Read: Biodegradable Plastic Packaging Made From Fish Waste


For all these reasons, primarily Industrial enterprises that cause the greatest negative impact on the ecosystem All businesses should adopt the concept of sustainability and continue to increase their efforts to implement the practices in this direction.

Sustainability, from the point of view of businesses, can be realized by integrating with a management approach in which company interests do not conflict with social interests, not only economic growth, but also social and environmental issues are included in company issues.

Parallel to this sustainability Individuals also have a great responsibility. First of all, individuals should embrace the importance of sustainability and set an example for the society by changing their daily habits such as lighting, heating, cleaning and even nutrition, and thus contribute to the future.

Click Here: 10 Great Tips to Reduce Plastic Use

Source: 1) Journal of Gazi University Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences 2) Youmatter


About the Author

Pinar Ozurganci Eskin

Environmental Engineer, nature lover, Ekolojist.net founder.