As many en vogue expressions, sustainability is today used in many ways and very often the underlying meaning is not really clear. This in turn leads sometimes to the rejection of the concept. It is however correct and necessary to seek in the business context for sustainability in the sense of a long-term business model that sustains itself and is aligned with the requirements of its stakeholders: community, employees, suppliers, customers to name the most important ones. Solid success requires today from a company to develop a business strategy that takes all these different aspects into account. Short-term success can be achieved, might even be more likely ignoring environmental impact and social implications of one's own operations. Who wants to be in business for the long run has to improve ones own operational impact constantly.
Business leaders sense increasingly the need to address the issues of social, environmental and community impact of their activities. Very often the knee jerk reaction leads to green washing or corporate responsibility (CR) box ticking. This is not only counterproductive but also very risky as many examples show. Viewing CR and sustainability as side issues or even as a burden misses completely the point. Sustainability offers a new way of looking at the market and helps to create novel and highly competitive new business models.
Sustainability is not an area for specialists to keep a company out of harm's way. Only those executives who truly understand these new strategic opportunities will be able to prepare their company for a profitable future.