- Sue Bruning
“Do you have any good articles that explain the difference between corporate sustainability and individual sustainability?”
As Chair of Cascade’s Sustainability Council, I get questions like this often. Sadly, I’ve yet to find one.
There are extensive resources on corporate sustainability that go into detail about improving a company’s social, economic, and environmental impact. In contrast, most articles about embracing sustainability at the personal level focus solely on the environmental aspect. You know, it’s all about “going green,” and “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” But sustainability is more than that.
Corporate sustainability programs are complex, but it’s actually easy to incorporate the same principles in your own life. In this blog, we’ll draw the parallels and distinctions between adopting sustainability practices for business and individuals.
Sustainability is an umbrella that covers three principles: social, economic, and environmental impact. The overarching idea is meet your needs today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. It’s about keeping the system healthy and prosperous indefinitely.
There are hundreds of individual issues tied to sustainability: energy, water, waste, health, safety, education, human rights, supply chain management, governance, money, regulatory compliance, and labor just to name a few.
For companies and individuals alike, the goal is to and take actions that support those issues. The things that matter most are different for every organization and person, and that’s okay. Check out Beyond Green: The Story of Sustainability for an interesting take on this concept.
So, if individual sustainability is just about applying the same principles as corporate sustainability programs, what’s the difference?
Corporate sustainability is a management model. It emphasizes growth and profitability through intentional practices in the areas of environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic prosperity. The goal is to provide long-term value for the business in way that positively impacts the world around it. The details can be found in sustainability standards like the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Standards Accounting Board, or the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Embracing sustainability on a personal level follows a similar process. Start by figuring out which issues matter most to you. Start by looking at the big picture: when you think about social justice, financial stability, and protecting the environment, what do you feel is important to you and aligns with your values?
Next, break it down into more specific issues and take action to improve conditions for those issues. Here are some examples.
I know it sounds cliché but it’s accurate: sustainability is a journey. There’s no one right answer on how to “be sustainable.” Priorities change over time, so there’s a continuous process of self-evaluation and adjusting your course. Keep exploring!
If you’d like to learn more about Cascade’s corporate sustainability efforts (and how we integrate them with the individual sustainability efforts of our employees), download our latest Corporate Sustainability Report.
Vice President, Marketing & Communications
Sue Bruning is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at Cascade and serves as Chair of Cascade’s Sustainability Council. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health, a master’s in Business Administration, and is certified in the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Process.
Sue has been in the environmental services industry for more than 20 years, and she recognizes that there’s a lot of messy marketing and unhelpful content floating around. In her role as VP of Marketing & Communications, she works to provide educational and actionable material for environmental professionals. Sue is also dedicated to driving engagement and satisfaction for employees and clients alike.
Because of her background in sustainability, Cascade recruited Sue in 2014 to establish the company’s sustainability program. The Cascade Sustainability Council was founded to manage company-wide efforts, and Sue was appointed Chair. The Council is tasked with setting goals, monitoring performance, and reporting annually about the company’s efforts regarding environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic impact. The reports allow clients to evaluate Cascade’s suitability as a contractor and provide options for resource conservation, environmental remediation, and responsible waste management.
If you would like to connect with Sue about her experience with marketing, communications, strategic planning or sustainability, you can find her on LinkedIn.