Sustainability, CSR or SD? A word about terminology

If you know a bit about Sustainability and have read about the topic somewhat you will know terminology is a tricky topic when it comes to Sustainability.

There are so many options to choose from when we talk about Sustainability terms. Ever since I started to work in this field I decided to draw a very strict line with regards to Sustainability terminology. The reason is straight forward. I do not want to go around mixing up terms when I feel they are fitting better for what I want to say. Especially when you write about Sustainability this helps a lot.words

Sustainability 
I prefer to use the term Sustainability primarily these days. To me Sustainability is the goal we all (business and society) need to aspire to in my view. To reach total sustainability is impossible but as a goal and aspiration it fits in my view.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
The other term I have been using ever since I started to write about Sustainability is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR is a part of this goal of reaching Sustainability in my view. CSR might sound a bit out of fashion these days but it still has a meaning for me. CSR for me means that businesses around the globe have a responsibility and duty to conduct their business in a responsible business manner. This includes all levels of the organisation.

Sustainable Development (SD)
Sustainable Development (SD) is a term that has to be mentioned when we talk about Sustainability. For me SD is the term that has the lowest importance for me at the moment and in a way it always had that third spot it terms of terminology. Why? Simple. For me SD is was the starting point for the whole Sustainability movement back when the Brundtland report was published in 1987. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) are giving the SD a new lease of life in term of significance from what I can see at the moment. But the SDG’s are also steering SD away from its original meaning. I might be wrong but the 17 SD Goals are great aspirations but are very broadly set in my view. I am unsure about the impact they will have over the next years for Sustainability best practice. But the SDG’s are a topic for another post.

To sum up
This is what I think of Sustainability terminology at the moment. Sustainability is the end goal /aspiration, CSR defines the role of business in the field of Sustainability and Sustainable development is standing a bit outside of this at the moment. Maybe the SDG’s will change that somewhat. I sure hope this is the case

This might be a bit abstract for now but I would love to hear what your views are on these terminology puzzles. Are we making just too much of a fuss about this and just get on with it?

Picture Credit: kalyan02

Author: Fabian

Father, Managing Director and former Sustainability / CSR professional for AccountAbility and E.ON UK.

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