Which are the four pillars of Sustainability in social enterprises?
- Human → people
- Social → culture
- Economic → profit
- Environmental → planet
Why do we need them?
In order to create a sustainable business model and to further achieve sustainable development, these four pillars are the guiding lines to embrace sustainability from all perspectives. Only recently, the human component has been enhanced.
Why are they important in determining how much a company is sustainable?
To keep this simple, let’s make an example: if a company focuses merely on one aspect (i.e. recycling) but doesn’t keep an eye on all other factors, it may end up being less sustainable that another company that has progressively made small steps forward but in all pillars.
First, you need to understand what is intended for “ sustainable development “. According to the Sustainable development commission, “Sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
As it emerges from this definition, the key point goes around the development of the society, intended for humankind.
It is important to relate sustainability to humankind, as to reach the s.c. sustainable development, since all stakeholders should be proactive towards more green actions, not one branch only.
PILLAR 1: Human
The first pillar refers to human capital and human rights, being the bone of every healthy enterprise. Usually, it refers to fair working conditions, safety measures, inclusiveness, education, justice, and respect in general. With solid and coherent human capital management, it is possible to educate humankind to behave respectfully inside and outside the company, both in terms of sustainable living and human rights respect.
PILLAR 2: Social
The second pillar is built upon the concept of well-balanced human capital. The social pillar takes at its heart the culture of an enterprise: equality, relationships, values, and beliefs.
The main focus is on empowering individuals and communities by giving them equal power in building, sharing and respecting each other traditions and needs. Examples can all be narrowed down to the care we offer to others: senior care, poverty reduction, and childcare, …
Oftentimes, when we talk about social entrepreneurship, a core pillar is the sustainable business model, which makes visible how a company creates value and to what extent it harms the environment and other stakeholders.
PILLAR 3: Economical
Here comes the challenging part: a company’s main objective should be to make a profit by adding value to the market. Considering a sustainable approach, it should be made by using all resources available in an efficient way without compromising the environment and future generations. It is fundamental to precisely plan resource allocation on the short term, but even more significant is the planning of the effects that current actions will have in the long term. This is also closely related to the regulatory framework under which a company operates. It is harder to stay sustainable when the government doesn’t impose any specific ordinance in regard.
Lately, many companies have tried to adopt a circular approach, meaning that the life cycle of a product doesn’t end with its deterioration but it is further reused in the supply chain. Imagine a close loop, where everything can be recycled.
PILLAR 4: Environmental
Here it’s very simple: this pillar refers to all natural resources (water, sun, soil, …) and their preservation over time. Since the industrial revolution, humankind hasn’t oriented its actions towards the respect of natural resources and even less, on its footprint on Earth. Now we are in a critical situation and everyone must act responsibly to prevent further nature deterioration.
Which steps can be taken by companies to reduce their impact on the world?
- adopt carbon-neutral/zero actions
- evaluate the supply chain, focusing on logistics and waste
- include recycling methods in as many steps of the production as possible
- invest in nature-supporting projects
- opt for renewable energies
These four pillars have been thought of as a starting point for companies to help them establish a green mindset for a brighter future, where being a fully green enterprise is normal. By implementing simple but well-thought actions the impact of one company can apport benefits to all its surrounding ecosystems. Despite all the sustainability providers, now a bigger step is asked from all those companies who have to change and upgrade their current strategies. Let’s start with the four pillars