What is sustainability and its most common terms? - Part 1

The UN defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

Sustainability is becoming a keyword in our society, however its definition is broad. This is why in this article we will first define the term itself, as well as its most common terms, focusing on the environmental aspect. In the next article Part 2, we will discover more terms and go deeper regarding this topic.

 

Sustainability pertains to the capacity to satisfy current necessities while safeguarding the potential of forthcoming generations to fulfill their own requirements. The concept in question is multidimensional, encompassing dimensions that pertain to the economy, society, and the environment. The concept of sustainable development entails the pursuit of economic progress while safeguarding the earth's natural resources and promoting social welfare. Sustainability has emerged as a crucial concern across various domains such as commerce, governance, and civic organizations in contemporary times.
 

E.S.G.:

E.S.G. stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. It is a framework used to evaluate the sustainability and ethical impact of investments, businesses, and organizations.

  • Environmental: refers to a company's impact on the natural environment. It includes factors such as carbon emissions, waste management, pollution, resource conservation, and climate change mitigation.
  • Social: refers to a company's impact on society, including issues such as human rights, labor standards, and community relations.
  • Governance: governance evaluates the company's internal systems and processes, including its leadership, board structure, executive compensation, shareholder rights, transparency, and ethics. Good governance ensures accountability, integrity, and responsible decision-making.

 

Global warming refers to the progressive average temperature rise of the earth and oceans, primarily attributed to the amplification of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities. The phenomenon of global warming is resulting in alterations in weather patterns, escalation of sea levels, and depletion of biodiversity, among various other consequences.

 

The term greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) pertains to the discharge of gases into the Earth's atmosphere that have the capacity to trap heat and thereby contribute to the phenomenon of global warming. The main contributors to the greenhouse effect are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. These gases are generated by anthropogenic activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels, deforestation, industrial processes, and many more..

 

A carbon footprint refers to the comprehensive quantity of greenhouse gas emissions generated by a person, entity, or commodity. It takes into consideration the release of greenhouse gases resulting from energy consumption, transportation, and other human actions that are known to be a significant contributor to the phenomenon of global warming. The quantification and mitigation of carbon footprints is a crucial measure in addressing the issue of climate change.


The GHG Protocol is a well-established and widely accepted framework utilized for quantifying and disclosing greenhouse gas emissions. The framework furnishes directives and instruments for entities to quantify and regulate their greenhouse gas discharges. It is employed by corporations, public administrations, and non-profit organizations to evaluate their ecological footprints and establish objectives for emission mitigation.
 

Decarbonisation is a term used to describe the act of decreasing carbon emissions through the adoption of low-carbon or carbon-free energy sources. The transition from non-renewable energy sources, namely fossil fuels, to sustainable alternatives like solar, wind, and hydro power is a crucial aspect to consider.

 

Net zero refers to achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. This is typically accomplished through a combination of reducing emissions and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through techniques such as afforestation or carbon capture and storage. Net zero is considered a critical goal in the fight against climate change, as it is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Many countries and businesses have set net zero targets, with the aim of achieving them by mid-century.

 

Carbon neutral refers to a state where an entity, such as a company, organization, or individual, has balanced their carbon emissions by removing or offsetting an equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere. To achieve carbon neutrality, an entity can take measures to reduce its carbon footprint, such as using renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, or reducing waste. They can also invest in carbon offsets, which are projects that remove or reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere, such as reforestation or renewable energy projects. The idea is to balance out the carbon emissions that are being produced with an equivalent amount of carbon removal or reduction, ultimately resulting in a net-zero carbon footprint. It is recommended to combine offsetting projects with a reduction strategy of CO2 emissions.

 

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) refer to a collection of 17 objectives that were formally instituted by the United Nations in 2015, as a component of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The objectives encompass the eradication of poverty, mitigation of inequality, and addressing the issue of climate change, among various other pursuits. The objectives are designed to serve as a universal framework for a more sustainable and just future, and they are anticipated to direct governmental and financial determinations both domestically and globally.


More and more terms related to sustainability are emerging. It is very important to understand them as they will appear more often in our personal and professional life. Find out additional terms in our next article “What is sustainability and its more common terms? - Part2”.

 

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