It is an organization’s goal to maximize shareholders’ wealth. At the most basic level, every organization has an economic responsibility to make a profit so that they can provide a return to their owners and investors, create employment and keep the economy flowing through contribution of goods and services. However, an organization must be also able to understand the importance of human and natural resources in the environment. Resources from the environment are not unlimited and its misuse can damage ecology and in turn, affect a company’s ability to achieve profit potential. The community is also another important factor because an organization’s customers are ultimately people in society and the well being of these individuals are vital to the success of a company. The notion of “adopting business strategies and activities that meets the needs of the organization and its stakeholders, while protecting, sustaining, and enhancing the human and natural resources in the future is becoming the objective of many companies” (Brundtland, 1987). Corporate sustainability is an organization’s endeavor to achieve best outcome for our society and the environment for both the present and the future (Dunphy, Benveniste, Griffiths and Sutton, 2000). For any organization to be successful in this new century, it must not overlook the social and environmental aspects of the world.
The social dimension of sustainability includes the political, cultural and all issues that concern the well-being of humanity. It involves that the basic conditions for human life to exist and prosper within society. These would comprise of areas such as physiological needs, for example: food, shelter and clothing (Carroll, 1991). There are also safety needs and social needs such as health care, education, interaction and the sense of belonging. These conditions cannot be met without a healthy and sustainable natural environment and economy. Social sustainability occurs “when organizations adopt policies, structures and relationships that actively support the capacity of current and future generations in order to create healthy and livable communities,” (Fowler, 2002). The goal is to provide the people of society a better quality of life.
Environmental sustainability refers on the health of our ecosystems. However, many of the Earth’s ecosystems have been strained or degraded. The poor, who depend almost directly on the natural environment for food, shelter and income, are the ones mostly influenced by the impacts of environmental deterioration. They are at greatest risk from external factors such as climate change due to them living on marginal lands. Without financial resources or the information to handle vulnerable resources in a sustainable manner, they are often forced to degrade their lands for survival, thus increasing to the problem of environmental deterioration and prolonging their poverty (CIDA, 2007, ¶2). The need for environmental sustainability is based on an understanding that environmental functions must be sustained to support life. These assets provide essential services that support our life, communities, industries, economy and jobs. Just as investors seek to protect their financial assets while enjoying the interest earned from them, members of society must also live off the benefits provided by our stock of natural assets without running down the assets themselves (Berry and Rondinelli, 1998). Environmental sustainability means that we need to consider carefully the full benefits provided by our natural assets before we make decisions on resource use.
Even though accounting for both social and environmental issues can be beneficial to an organization, bringing it into action might not be a fluid transition. In the case of implementing social and ethical practices, if a company places itself as a leader on an issue, the more susceptible it is to criticism if the company fails to meet expectation (Singer, 2003)...
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