This is what it's all about

The three-pillar model is used as a yardstick to measure the sustainability of a company.
Ecology, economy and social justice form the three pillars.
Despite criticism, the three-pillar model has become the standard for assessing sustainable companies.

What exactly is sustainability?

There is probably no term that has been more strained in recent years than the word "sustainability". Every company that wants to put on a green coat works out a sustainability strategy. In many cases, however, the term "sustainability" remains an empty phrase. It is not uncommon for the topic of sustainability in companies to degenerate into a marketing instrument with which customers want to be won over. But if the sustainability strategy does not correspond to the DNA of the company, it lacks credibility. This is referred to as greenwashing. Another difficulty is the definition of sustainability. What exactly does sustainability mean? Is a company allowed to boast about sustainability if it replaces disposable coffee cups with reusable cups, or is there more to it than that?

One guideline for sustainable development in companies is the so-called three-pillar model. This represents the idea that sustainable development can only be achieved if it is based on the three pillars of ecology, economy and social justice. All three areas must be implemented simultaneously and equally.

Ecological sustainability

Conservation of the environment, including natural resources.
Conscious use of water, energy and non-renewable raw materials.
Only cause as many emissions as can be offset.
Conscious handling of human health (no harmful substances in consumer products).

Economic sustainability

Sustainable management through long-term strategies.
Profitable management without damaging the resources needed for this.
Profit maximisation must not be the exclusive focus.

Social sustainability

Fair income for all employees.
Compliance with labour rights, health protection and general social standards of employees.
Diversity and equal opportunities within the company.
Ethical business practices.

Criticism of the three-pillar model

Although the three-pillar principle has become the standard in the corporate world and no other model has yet prevailed, it is not without controversy. The main criticism is that ecological, economic and social sustainability can hardly be treated equally in practice. Since the protection of natural resources is a basic prerequisite for economic and social sustainability, ecological sustainability must have a higher priority.

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