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The three-pillar model of sustainability – Part 4

We are now entering the 4th round in our series on the three-pillar model of sustainability. The last part of the series is dedicated to the economic aspect of the model and explains what it means and what concrete examples there are. As already explained in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, this model of sustainability is about a balanced development of ecological, social and economic aspects. Sustainable development can only be achieved if all three components are treated equally.

Economic dimension

The economic dimension of sustainability refers to sustainable business practices with a focus on a world worth living in for all people. Even if it is important for sustainable companies to make a profit, the focus should not be on maximizing profits. Instead, companies and countries should behave economically in such a way that future generations are not burdened.

Specifically, a person, a society or a state should not live beyond its means. Economies are considered sustainable if they can be operated in the long term. At state level, public debt should be kept to a minimum. At company level, decisions should be made that make sense in the long term, such as paying employees fairly, investing in training or using high-quality raw materials. The promotion of fair trade, environmental protection projects and social justice also play a major role.

Cubes with sustainability symbols are stacked on top of each other

The European "Green Deal"

At EU level, the “Green Deal” aims to create a transition to a resource-efficient, modern and competitive economy in Europe. By 2030, net greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced to at least 55% compared to 1990 levels. All 27 EU member states have committed to making the EU a climate-neutral continent by 2050. The Green Deal package also includes the demand for an emissions trading system. This means limiting emissions and putting a price tag on pollution. In terms of economic sustainability, many other issues, such as the sustainable design of transport, the promotion of a circular economy or the creation of clean energy systems and green jobs, are of great importance. The phenomenon of greenwashing is often cited as a typical problem and current challenge for the Green Deal in Europe, which we have already reported on in more detail in this article. 

Two hands catch a jet of water

Examples of concrete measures

1. Promotion of regionality

Using local products and buying regionally can save a lot of money. Regional supply reduces transportation routes and helps to reduce greenhouse emissions.

2. Efficient use of resources

The efficient and targeted use of resources along supply chains not only leads to environmental benefits for companies, but also to lower bills due to reduced consumption.

3. Replacement of old appliances

When old and inefficient devices or machines are replaced, a company’s energy consumption can be reduced. By using new machines or software, work steps can be carried out more efficiently and electricity consumption can be kept to a minimum.

4. Management of transparent supply chains

To ensure that all suppliers involved work to certain social and environmental standards, companies can set strict criteria and review them regularly.

Advantages for companies

Economic sustainability gives companies a number of advantages. Increased customer interest in sustainability means that more and more people are paying attention to the actions and corporate philosophy of companies. If a company positions itself clearly on sustainability, it can attract more new customers. In addition, companies can generate broad public interest and gain a better reputation by focusing on economic sustainability. This can draw the attention of the media as well as trained specialists and young talents looking for meaningful work to sustainable companies.


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