The Core Principles Of Sustainability in Organisations

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Climate change threatens our way of life. But it is also disruptive from a business perspective.

Businesses must not only respond to climate change issues today, but must prepare for developments expected in the future. Sustainability should be a key element of any business strategy.

Here we discuss what the core principles a sustainable business are:

What is corporate sustainability?

Corporate sustainability refers to a business’s approach to meeting its responsibilities to stakeholders.

But instead of focusing solely on profit, it considers the social impacts from business alongside the environment and economy.

The three pillars of corporate sustainability

There are three main values of corporate sustainability. A fully sustainable business observes all three pillars.

#1. Environmental

Businesses now have to consider the impact of their activities on the environment.

Every product made includes raw materials, energy and other resources, not only in its creation and transportation, but throughout its life cycle.

As we move increasingly towards a circular global economy, waste and emissions are no longer tolerated as an unfortunate bi-product of business.

Businesses now have a responsibility to investigate, analyse, measure and improve their impact on the environment.

This involves streamlining or changing processes, such as sourcing different raw materials, switching to renewable energy or measures to reduce waste and carbon footprint.

#2. Social

Consumers are more knowledgeable than ever about the choices they make when it comes to spending their money.

Employees are equally interested in a company’s social credentials.

Both groups want to know a business shows responsibility and care towards its staff as well as other people involved along the supply chain, and that workers are fairly paid and in a safe, positive working environment.

The social pillar of corporate sustainability also includes community engagement. This involves activities such as fundraising, sponsorship and investment in public projects – showing that a company is focused on giving back to communities.

#3. Economic

The main aim of a business is, nevertheless, to make a profit.

It’s no good reducing emissions and implementing a better maternity leave policy if the company ultimately loses money and is forced to close.

Although equal importance should be awarded to all three pillars of corporate sustainability, a company must align its strategy with its shareholders’ interests, as well as its people, supply chain and customers.

The inclusion of an economic pillar in a strategy makes it possible for sustainability strategies to be agreed, as it balances out the potential costs and time involved in reviewing and changing activities for the good of society and the environment.

Businesses and sustainability: the good, the bad and the ugly

Some businesses have met the sustainability challenge with huge success, whilst some have been guilty of not performing as well…


Apple aims to reduce carbon emissions and to partner with companies that share similar values.

They use mostly aluminium instead of other materials because it produces lower emissions.

Also, 23 of their partners are committed to 100% renewable energy.

Estee Lauder

The cosmetics company sends zero waste to landfills, as all their waste is either recycled or incinerated and converted into energy.

In its sustainability plan, the company also aims to impact the well-being of 10 million individuals through programs and in regards to health, education and environment.


With its green label, and advertising that places the brand in a meadow, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the global drinks brand was both sustainable and healthier.

However, the brand has been accused of greenwashing after it was revealed that it contained 6.6% sugar.

And the brand remains the worst plastic polluter in the world.


In early 2020, Ryanair announced it had become Europe’s “lowest emissions airline”.

However, this claim was found not to be true and the Advertising Standards Authority promptly banned the ads.

How to adopt the core principles of being sustainable

#1. Adopt a science-based strategy

A science-based approach shows all stakeholders and the wider community that your business takes its responsibility seriously when it comes to climate change.

Depending on your business’s activities and size, the amount of data collected will vary compared with other companies. It is vital that you collect and analyse your business’s specific data in order to achieve optimum results.

#2. No greenwashing

A staggering 29% of consumers believe that brands use environmental claims as a ‘marketing ploy’ which shows the suspicion with which they view the companies they interact with. It’s important that businesses understand their environmental responsibilities, but also the public attitude towards them.

Training your staff with green skills programmes, such as these IEMA courses, can help everyone agree on sustainability and be mindful of greenwashing statements. 

#3. Secure buy-in from stakeholders

The most important way to set the right sustainability goals and achieve them is through employee engagement. A business’s greatest weapon in protecting the environment is its workforce. A wealth of information is at every sustainability manager’s fingertips in the form of knowledge, data and ideas.

Internal communication is key to getting employees on board when it comes to sustainability. Businesses must encourage staff in all departments and at all levels to work together to achieve a common goal of helping to save the environment.

Another effective way to garner support is to offer training, which could become part of personal objectives and KPIs. At TSW, we have a wide range of IEMA courses for staff at all levels that give your business and its teams resilience and expertise as they work towards net-zero and green transition.

By encouraging the gathering of data and instilling both company-wide and individual targets, any spending made on achieving sustainability policies can be justified by showing return on investment (ROI).

Listen to our training experts discuss how your business can become more sustainable, in our green skills podcast

Picture of Matthew Channell
Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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