How to Build a Sustainable Future: The Four Pillars of Sustainability Explained

The four pillars of sustainability are different from the three pillars of sustainability, or 3 PS or 3 E’s. The four pillars of sustainability provide an alternate perspective on sustainable development that focuses more on the human factor. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at what are the four pillars of sustainability.

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The 4 Pillars of Sustainability

Sustainable development is when people, the environment, and the economic needs can all be met simultaneously without hurting one another. For example, a business is sustainable if:

  1. It’s profitable and growing.
  2. Demonstrates concern for its staff by providing competitive compensation and personal development opportunities.
  3. Supports and helps the development of local communities.
  4. Cares for the environment by applying eco-friendly manufacturing practices.

The four pillars: human, social, economic, and environmental sustainability, are the core of sustainable development. 

1. The Human Pillar

What does social sustainability mean in business?

Human sustainability focuses on the care and growth of an organization’s human component. This includes access to food, water, healthcare, education, justice, decent working conditions, skill development, and general respect for human rights.

Here are some ways to think of better human sustainability:

  • Empowering local communities: Consider the community you live in and how you can help expand and enrich them.
  • Respect the community you are in. When sourcing from foreign nations, in particular, you should give some thought to the traditions and requirements of the local communities and how you might help the continued existence of such communities. Perhaps there are ways to leverage their cultures to offer your product a distinctive edge.

2. The Environmental Pillar

Environmental sustainability seeks to enhance human well-being by safeguarding our natural environment and resources (e.g., land, air, water, minerals, etc.). Environmentally sustainable initiatives and programs guarantee the requirements of the people are satisfied without jeopardizing the needs of future generations.

An environmentally sustainable business must incorporate all four sustainability pillars, and each must be addressed equally to achieve this goal.

3. The Economic Pillar

Most businesses feel safe when it comes to the economic part of sustainability. A business needs to make money to keep going. Still, making money can’t be more important than the other two pillars. The economic pillar is not all about making money at any cost. 

These are strategies that fit within the economic pillar.  

  • Compliance
  • Proper administration
  • Risk management

While many American companies already practice these, they are far from global standards.

This pillar is often called the administrative pillar, which refers to doing business ethically and responsibly. This indicates that the company’s boards of directors and management are aligned with the interests of the shareholders, value chains, staff, and end-user consumers.

4. The Cultural Pillar

The cultural pillar relates to human culture, assets, and resources. Investments in health care, welfare, safety, and education may help society maintain and increase its well-being. 

In this scope, businesses must do their part as an important part of society. They need to learn the culture and history of the community. With this in mind, they can promote and appreciate their customer’s beliefs and demonstrate their respect for the local culture.

Why Are the 4 Pillars of Sustainability Important?

The four pillars of sustainability are hugely important because they fortify and safeguard the future. Without them, our society would struggle to survive.

Sustainability fuels innovation while mitigating risk. It can preserve or enhance a resource supply, which is beneficial to the needs of both citizens and companies.

Potential Problems of Sustainable Development

Sustainable development seems like the obvious and best option for economic growth. Nonetheless, its implementation faces several challenges.

Using the four pillars of sustainability requires a significant financial investment. We need to replace a considerable amount of the old infrastructure and technology with brand-new components.

In addition, choices that are based on fossil fuels are more efficient than alternatives such as renewable energy and bioplastics with our current technology. People would have to use a much higher quantity of each component to get the same outcomes, driving up the cost.

4 Pillars of Sustainability Initiatives

Here are some things a company can do to incorporate the four pillars of sustainability. 

1. Transportation

Since transportation is a significant cause of air pollution and climate change, businesses should find ways to lighten their carbon footprints. Businesses can incentivize workers to take public transportation, carpool, bike, or walk to work instead of driving alone. 

Related: E-Bikes, Electric Bike Speed Limits, Best Public Transportation in the World

2. Waste

The more waste a business generates, the more energy it uses to dispose of it. Businesses can help save energy by reusing materials such as paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum. Businesses can also reduce energy and water use by replacing inefficient appliances and fixtures. 

Related: E-Waste Recycling, The Truth About Recycling

Recycle 1

3. Renewable Energy

Businesses can also produce electricity or switch to a greener energy source. Installing solar panels on homes and businesses has become more common to provide sustainable energy at a low cost.

Renewable Energy

4. Paper Deficit

Make your business paper-free by being diligent about digital documents. For example, use digital copies of reports and contracts and print only when you need them. Switching to digital may lessen an organization’s negative effect on the environment, primarily if it already uses renewable energy for its power needs. 

Paper Deficit in Meeting

5. Green Products

Businesses can focus on purchasing choices to source products that minimize environmental harm and risk. For example, buying paper that is made sustainably or reducing one’s use of single-use plastics. 

6. Investing in ESG

Look for sustainable investments. A group of experts indicated in 2017 that long-term investors should consider both ESG and financial performance in their investments. ESG investments are anticipated to grow worldwide because governments, corporations, and individuals want to align their long-term investments with their values.

Final Thoughts

The four pillars of sustainability in agriculture, energy, environment, and economic development have been pursued for decades and have been used to create a sustainable future. These pillars have been used to support various policies and implement actions that help maintain balance in society and help sustain the land and people who make our world.

We need to focus on sustainability rather than continue adopting solutions that upset the environment’s fragile balance. We need to implement the four pillars of sustainability to help preserve the environment and use our natural resources without destroying the planet. 

The ultimate goal of sustainability is to take care of all of Earth’s people while taking care of the planet’s resources for generations to come. In other words, we need to consider the consequences of our actions and ask ourselves if we would be proud to pass this planet onto the next generation in better or worse conditions.

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