|Quality Management and Safety Engineering (BSc) - MST 326|
Sustainability, including Corporate Social Responsibility.
The World Commission on Environment and Development suggested the following
definition of Sustainable Development (Brundtland Commission Report 1987) :
"Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of
future generations to meet their own needs."
and that it should be seen as a balance of four factors:
|Equity (social factors)||People|
In practice, the latter factor rarely features directly in the analysis and it is thus commonly referred to as triple bottom line accounting (3BL). Economic factors are perhaps the most easily measured (e.g. gross domestic product or return-on-investment). Environmental concerns can be quantified using Life Cycle
Assessment (LCA) although access to validated databases may not be straightforward. The social factors are usually assessed qualitatively - Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, first presented in his book
"Motivation and Personality"  may be a useful framework for a more quantitative analysis. As a lower need is satisfied, then other needs assume a higher priority:
- physiological needs -> safety or security needs -> belongingness and love needs -> esteem needs -> self-actualisation.
Dresner  has presented a particularly cogent analysis:
"Conventional cost-benefit analysis appears unable to deal with the implications of thinking about sustainable development ... Basing ethical decisions on economic value seems by its nature to skew decisions so as to favour the interests of wealthy people in the present day. The interests of the poor, future generations and other species are all discounted by the approach. The problem lies not simply in the practice of cost benefit analysis, but is a really a result of the utilitarian ethical framework of
mainstream economics" [page 120].
"Any operational definition of sustainability is ultimately based on more or less arbitrary decisions about the extent to which new knowledge and technology will be able to substitute for various [depleted] natural resources [in the future]. Yet it is fundamentally impossible to predict with any accuracy what future technologies will be available" [p167]. "It is reasonable to suppose that the growth model of capitalism cannot continue indefinitely" [p172].
"Sustainability is an idea which combines postmodern pessimism about the domination of nature [by mankind] with almost enlightenment optimism about the possibility to reform human institutions" [p164]. "In a world where environmental limits are already being exceeded, any movement to allow improvements in the condition of the poor majority is going to require the rich minority to reduce their consumption of environmental space still more drastically than even the need for physical sustainability would imply" [p170]. "It might not be too cynical to draw the conclusion that people are all in favour of sustainability only so long as it does not involve any personal inconvenience ... Consumerism is an addiction that most people afflicted with do not want to be cured of" [p171].
This poses the problem of measuring the "sustainability" of any particular
set of circumstances. A fully Quantitative Life Cycle Analysis would address the
balanced requirements arising from economic, environmental and social issues. However, there are a diverse set of issues addressed by different bodies and no agreed weighting, such that each analyst can produce results favourable to the case they wish to make. For example, the sources analysed in the Table below undertake very different analyses for sustainability criteria.
In March 2005, the UK Government published Securing the Future: Delivering UK Sustainable Development Strategy  aiming "to enable all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life of future generations". However, a key conclusion was that "if it becomes apparent that certain indicators need to be improved to ensure our monitoring is effective then if it is practicable to establish a revised indicator, we will do so. However it should be noted that there are considerable economic, statistical, scientific, and practical constraints to embarking on new data collection".
The Sustainable Development Education Working Group of the Royal Academy of Engineering has recently published Engineering for Sustainable Development: Guiding Principles  with Twelve Guiding Principles of Engineering for Sustainable Development:
- Look beyond your own locality and immediate future
- Innovate and be creative
- Seek a balanced solution
- Seek engagement from all stakeholders
- Make sure you now the needs and wants
- Plan and manage effectively
- Give sustainability the benefit of the doubt
- If polluters must pollute ... then they must pay as well
- Adopt an holistic 'cradle-to-grave' approach
- Do things right, having decided on the right things to do
- Beware cost reductions that masquerade as value engineering
- Practice what you preach
In the 1960s, Paul Ehrlich [6, 7] proposed a simple equation to analyse the sustainability issues:
I = C x P x T
where I represents the total environmental impact, C is the typical consumption per capita within the bounds of the study, P is the human population and T is a measure of technological
environmental impact per unit of consumption.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
The role business plays in creating a sustainable society is a very current issue (perhaps the fastest growing management discipline of 2007). The UK Government has an "ambitious vision for UK businesses to consider the economic, social and environmental impacts of their activities, wherever
they operate in the world". They define CSR as "the business contribution to our sustainable development goals. Essentially it is about how business takes account of its economic, social and environmental impacts in the way it operates – maximising the benefits and minimising the downsides". Their website connects to information about how they help make that vision a reality.
Since 1993, the Best Practice Club (a professional network) has been facilitating learning and shared experience opportunities to their members to identify and adopt best business practice.
- Environmental Management
- ISO 14001 Environmental management. Requirements with guidance for use
- ISO 14004 Environmental management. General guidelines on implementation
- ISO 14031 Environmental management. Environmental performance evaluation. Guidelines
- BS 8555 Environmental management systems. Phased implementation guide
- BS 8583 Biodiversity
- Circular Economy
- BS 8001 Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations
- Climate change and decarbonization
- ISO 14090 Adaption to climate change
- PAS 2060 Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality
- ISO 14064-1 Greenhouse Gases Specification
- PAS 2050 Specification for the assessment of the life cycle of green house gas emissions
- PAS 2080 Carbon management in infrastructure
- PAS 2070+A1 Specification for the assessment of green house gasses
- Energy and Water management
- BS 8905 Framework for the assessment of the sustainable use of materials. Guidance
- Other Relevant Standards
- ISO 26000 Guidance on Social responsibility
- ISO 20121 Sustainable event management
- ISO 20400 Sustainable procurement guidance
- BS 8900-1 Managing sustainable development of organizations
- World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future (The Brundtland Report), Oxford Paperbacks, Oxford, April 1987. ISBN 0-19-282080-X. PU CSH Library.
- AH Maslow, Motivation and Personality, Harper & Row, New York, 1970. Third edition, 1987.ISBN 0-06-041987-3. PU CSH Library.
- Simon Dresner, The Principles of Sustainability, Earthscan, London, 2002. ISBN 1-85383-842-X. Second edition, 2008. ISBN 1-84407-496-x. PU CSH Library.
- Securing the Future: Delivering UK Sustainable Development Strategy, The Stationery Office, Norwich, March 2005. ISBN 0-10-164672-0.
- Richard Dodds and Roger Venables, Engineering for Sustainable Development: Guiding Principles, Royal Academy of Engineering, September 2005.
ISBN 1-903496-21-7. PU CSH Library: 948 KB PDF format 52 page report.
- PR Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, Buccaneer Books, New York, 1971, ISBN 1-56849-587-0. Pan Books, London, 1971, ISBN 0-345-02139-8 (originally published by Ballantine, New York, 1968). PU CSH Library.
- PR Ehrlich and JP Holdren, Impact of population growth, Science, 26 March 1971, 171(3977), 1212-1217.
Recommended further reading for sustainable development
- A Azapagic, S Perdan and R Clift (editors), Sustainable Development in Practice - Case Studies for Engineers and Scientists, John Wiley & Sons, May 2004. ISBN 0-470-85609-2. second edition, 2011: ISBN 978-0-470-71872-8. PU CSH Library.
- GC Avery, Leadership for Sustainable Futures, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2005. ISBN 1-84542-173-6. PU CSH Library.
- Janine M Benyus, Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by nature, Perennial (HarperCollins), New York, 1997. ISBN 0-06-053322-6. PU CSH Library.
The authors website is at http://www.biomimicry.org/intro.html
- Lester R Brown, State of the World 2001: a report on progress toward a sustainable society
Worldwatch Institute/Earthscan Publications, London, 2001. ISBN 1-85383-769-5.
- Paul Hawken et al, Natural Capitalism: The Next Industrial Revolution, Earthscan, London, 1999. ISBN 1-85383-461-0. Tenth edition, 2010: ISBN 978-1-84407-170-8. PU CSH Library.
Individual chapters in pdf format are available via links from http://www.natcap.org/sitepages/pid20.php
- Poul Harremoës et al, The Precautionary Principle in the 20th Century: Late Lessons from Early Warnings, Earthscan Publications, London, 2002. ISBN 1-85383-893-4. PU CSH Library.
- James Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia: why the Earth is fighting back – and how we can still save humanity, Allen Lane, London, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0-713-99914-3. PU CSH Library.
- Anil Markandya et al, Environmental economics for sustainable growth: a handbook for practitioners, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, c 2002. ISBN 1-84064-306-4. PU CSH Library
- Anil Markandya and Marcella Pavan (editors), Green Accounting in Europe: Four Case Studies, Springer, 1999. ISBN 0-7923-5470-2. PU CSH Library.
- Anil Markandya and Marialusa Tamborra (editors), Green Accounting in Europe volume 2: A Comparative Study, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2005. ISBN 1-84542-114-0. PU CSH Library.
- William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to cradle: remaking the way we make things, North Point Press, New York, 2002. ISBN 0-86547-587-3. PU CSH Library.
- Paul Roberts, The End of Oil: the decline of the petroleum economy and the rise of the new energy order, Bloomsbury Publishing plc, London, 2004. ISBN 0-7475-7075-2. Nonna Gorilovskaya interview with Paul Roberts.
URLs for sustainable development
- Best Foot Forward Limited (BFF) design and develop tools to measure and communicate environmental impact and sustainability
using methodologies such as resource flow and ecological footprint analysis.
- Club of Rome is an NGO convinced that the future of humankind is not determined once and for all
and that each human being can contribute to the improvement of our societies.
- European Commission Sustainable Development pages
- Eco-innovation for a Sustainable Future (European Commission)
- Consultation paper for the preparation of a European strategy for sustainable development
- Stimulating Technologies for Sustainable Development: An Environmental Technologies Action Plan for the European Union
- Sustainable Production: challenges and objectives for EU research policy EUR 19880, July 2001.
- Peter James Business, eco-efficiency and sustainable development – the role of environmental management tools
- René von Schomberg, European Commission DG Research Foresight Working paper The objective of Sustainable Development: are we coming close?
- Forum for the Future is a UK charity which promotes sustainable development and education of different groups in sustainable development, in order to accelerate the building of a sustainable way of life, taking a positive solutions-oriented approach.
- Project SIGMA aims to provide clear, practical advice to organisations to help them to manage the social, environmental and wider economic impacts of their organisations' activities and make a meaningful contribution to sustainable development.
- The Natural Step (TNS) is an international sustainable
development charity that helps organisations and communities move towards a just and sustainable future.
- UK Government Sustainable Development Commission is the Government’s independent watchdog on sustainable development, reporting to the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales. Through advocacy, advice and appraisal, they help put sustainable development at the core of Government policy.
- UK Government Sustainable Development
- The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a coalition of 180 international companies united by a shared commitment to sustainable development via the three pillars of economic growth, ecological balance and social progress.
- World Energy Council promotes "the sustainable supply and use of energy for the greatest benefit of all people".
- Learning for the Future: The DfES Sustainable Development Action Plan 2005/06.
Return to MST 326 home page
Created by John Summerscales on 14 January 2006 (using material from earlier MST326 pages) and updated on 17-Mar-2021 0:45.
Terms and conditions. Errors and omissions. Corrections.