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What are the three pillars of sustainability?


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What are the three pillars of sustainability?


While in some parts of the world, ice sheets are retreating causing floods in the low-lying areas, the other parts are suffering from acute water shortage and drought-like conditions. Extreme weather events have become more common, severely impacting human and animal lives and disrupting the entire economy. At the same time, the growing human population is overexploiting the natural resources and even contaminating them, causing irreversible damage and making the future look extremely blurry.


Looking at the condition of our planet today, I feel that sustainable development is the urgent need of the hour. It is the only way we can mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change and other consequences of unsustainable human activities. These unsustainable human activities have not only taken place at the cost of our planet but also the cost of social equity. The gap between the rich and the poor widened. And various parts of the world including our country witnessed skyrocketing poverty and hunger.


Realizing this, back in 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined this crucial term as ‘the ability to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the future generation’s ability to meet their needs.’ And while many of us might think that this definition limits sustainability just to the environment, that is not true because the scope of sustainability is so wide that it not only aims at improving the health of the earth but also social equity along with economic development. These three are what we call the three pillars of sustainability. And the integration of these three pillars forms the foundation of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals and the policies and frameworks adopted by different countries for their overall development.


So let me take you to see how these three pillars of sustainability work and understand their significance.


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1. Environmental Sustainability

There are many shocking and terrifying predictions of our planet, one of which is the estimation that the average global temperature will rise by 1.5 degrees celsius in the upcoming two decades.


Environmental sustainability focuses on keeping a check on global warming by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. It also aims at conserving the earth’s natural capital by shifting to alternatives that are renewable and using the resources in a sustainable manner so that they get enough to replenish themselves.


Its other objective includes the conservation of the earth’s ecosystems from exploitation and contamination. The pollution of air, water, and soil has serious repercussions on the health of human beings, even causing chronic and fatal illnesses.


So finding ways to protect the environment from climate change, overuse, and pollution by adopting sustainable everyday practices is an integral part of environmental sustainability.


2. Social sustainability

I strongly believe that social sustainability is significant because in our society there exist huge disparities between the haves and the have nots, widespread poverty, discriminatory and oppressive practices against the marginalized sections of the society and the basic amenities of life like healthcare and education are not accessible to everyone.


Social well-being is vital for the survival and development of individuals and its integration with economic and environmental sustainability can be seen from a simple example that when more people have access to quality education, income levels, and employment increase. Not only that, but people become more aware of the burning issues of the earth and the ways in which they can contribute towards the conservation of the environment.


3. Economic sustainability

This is the last and final pillar of sustainability. The interconnection of economic sustainability with social sustainability can be seen in the example that I have stated above about how employment provides social security, especially in terms of access to quality food, water, education, and healthcare.


And when it comes to how economic sustainability can benefit the environment, we should look at the incentives that the government provides to promote sustainable practices among businesses. Another thing that becomes crucial here is the adoption of innovative ways in which the businesses can switch to sustainable ways and still generate profits.


In the end

I believe that we can maintain these three pillars of sustainability without having to compromise on any one of them if we understand how they function together and devise new ways to integrate them. The future of our planet and the betterment of the people living on it does not only depend on anyone authority but it is the responsibility of every individual, be it people who are in the government or corporate or a person who is a student.


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Author-Ramesh Chaurasia

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A superior and highly experienced entrepreneur in the field of business for quite a long time now. Also, a philanthropist, author and public speaker who believes in working towards the overall well being and betterment of the society as a whole.


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