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Scope of sustainability


There are intuitive and literal definitions of sustainability that business need to consider to keep up with the new normal. They all suggest an evolving process that balance between long-term organisational needs and the societal well-being. Activists are against any fleeting or parasitic business practice that degrade the community’s economic, social, environmental health. This brings about the question of what sustainability in business covers. The answer lies in the examination of how sustainability is described by various sources.


The UK government identified the goal of sustainable development as the enabling of all people worldwide to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life now without compromising the quality of life for future generations. The objective focuses on today’s business activities being capable of satisfying the livelihood of the present generation. It further points to the fact that satisfaction of today’s livelihood should never compromise the future generation.

While the livelihood is satisfied by activities of business in general, policing to ensure that the business innovate and the economy is productive delivering high level of employment, a just society that promotes social inclusion, sustainable communities and personal well-being is critical. On the other hand, the policies by the government need in a way, to protect and enhance the physical and natural environment including the use of resources and energy in an efficient manner.

According to the International Institute of Sustainable Development, sustainability is adopting business strategies and activities that meet the enterprise and its stakeholders’ requirements today while protecting, sustaining and enhancing the human and natural resources that will be needed in future. The emphasis of the definition is within the remits of the business as it develops its strategy. Strategy development therefore require incorporation of sustainability. The question lingering is whether organisations’ strategy recognise sustainability.

A coalition of 170 international companies committed to sustainability development looks at sustainability as a combination of two concepts. One of eco-efficiency that links financial and environmental performance to create more value with less adverse impact. The second is corporate social responsibility, the commitment of the business to contribute to sustainable economic development through working with employees, their families, local communities at large to improve the quality of their life.

In light of the definition, financial consideration of the business needs to take into account environmental impact implying that specifications, designs and production methods need to consider the impact of inputs, processes, output and the waste to the environment. Secondly, specifications need to take into account social considerations with respect to the calibre of employees not to include child and prison labour to improve the quality of livelihood.

Sustainability-integrated Guidelines for management has five dimensions to the meaning. It is achieved by actively managing the environment, the natural capital; the people, the human capital; social relationships and structures, the social capital; fixed assets, the manufactured capital; and the profit and loss, sales, shares, cash, the financial capital. Sustainability is living off the income emanating from the outputs from the capital rather than degrading the capital themselves.

To achieve the scope of sustainability, the procurement policies at macro and micro level need to encompass the ideology given that the micro activities have implications at a macro level. Since the public sector shapes activities in the private sector, the procurement laws should take into account issues of sustainable procurement.

Nyasha Chizu is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply writing in his personal capacity. Feedback: nya.chizu@gmail.com Skype: nyasha.chizu

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