MANY FACES OF SUSTAINABILITY – What is sustainability…


The most common definition comes from 1987’s Brundtland Report:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

It’s like peace or hope. Everyone wants it, but no one really knows what it looks like.

If is going to effectively make a positive difference towards ‘sustainability’, its going to be important to continuously seek out the best possible way to provide the necessary clarity for all of us to find our place in moving its agenda forward.  One thing I know is that enough of us agree that the sustainability road is one that we need to be travelling on if we are going to ‘rewrite the future’.

In a recent blog post by Todd Reubold, he had recommended four suggestions to help advance the “global sustainability” narrative:

1. Break sustainability down by sector

When throwing around phrases such as “building a sustainable future,” it’s critical to identify the sector you’re talking about. The sustainability of the transportation sector obviously presents a different range of challenges and opportunities than, say, the sustainability of global agriculture. And if one becomes more sustainable while the other becomes less sustainable, are we truly moving toward a more sustainable future overall?

Even within sectors there are challenges. If your goal is to create a more sustainable energy system, does that mean reducing carbon emissions — thus including nuclear energy — or are you referring to “clean” sources of renewable energy such as solar and wind? Once again, details matter greatly.

2. Speak in specifics

Ask a hundred people if they’re interested in living in a “more sustainable world” and I bet the vast majority would respond, “Yes.” The trouble is, they’d probably all have a different idea in their heads of what that meant. We need to start talking about a sustainable future in specifics. Sustainability over what time frame? Where? For whom? Which brings me to my next point…

3. Clearly identify who benefits

We need to clarify who benefits from sustainability efforts. For example, does sustainable apparel benefit someone making dollars a day? If so, explain how. Does sustainable energy help the millions living without access to electricity? Are we talking about sustainability for humans, animals, plants and/or other natural systems? If humans are living “more sustainable lifestyles” while the extinction rate for plants and animals continues its upward trajectory, can we call that a success?

4. Paint a picture

What does sustainability look like in practice? How does it actually work? What’s different from the world we live in today? And, perhaps most importantly, what are the trade-offs? Walking and biking might be the most sustainable forms of transportation, but they’re probably not the most time-efficient if you need to drive 10 miles across town for work or an appointment. No matter how different we want the future to be, we can’t simply ignore the way people actually live today. We cannot simply wish for a world we want…

The above points and questions raised by Todd Reubold are just some of the considerations we are taking in the development of  It is important to us that we eventually find a sweet spot upon which products, services and champions may be holistically curated and accepted to be sustainable.  Nevertheless in the mean time, I found it important that we start the process by inviting businesses, social enterprises and civil society to start listing products and services that they felt were sustainable and use a crowdsourced approach to curate each listing through reviews and ratings that were unbiased and captured the thoughts of the masses. is and will always be engineered to be a platform for all of us to democratically help define what sustainability should be.  You are all invited to provide your input, review and ratings of products, services and champions that are listed in and help them to become more relevant and aligned to the times.

I have personally taken the responsibility to initiate this conversation about what sustainability is so that we all collectively work towards a constantly evolving definition that will help to align all the world’s products, services and champions so that‘s success will belong to the world.

Let it begin…


Leave a Reply