3 E's of Sustainability

Increasing environmental risks as a result of population growth and industrialization increase the importance of the concept of sustainability. Preventing the damage caused by human activities to nature and securing the future of the world constitute the basis of sustainability.

When addressing sustainability, the impact of the activities implemented in the development process on future generations should be emphasized. For example, the prioritization of economic benefits over environmental and social values can lead to irreversible global problems. Examples of these problems include climate change and environmental pollution.

The 3 dimensions of sustainability consist of economic, environmental, and equity components. Considering these 3 fundamental elements equally provides a holistic approach. This paves the way for looking to the future with confidence.

We have examined these 3 dimensions and their characteristics for you. First, let us get to know sustainable development more closely:

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development means development without limiting the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Technological developments have led to an increase in production and consumption levels. In the same direction, the environmental impact of human activities is also increasing. All these developments take place within social structures. Many issues such as income distribution, discrimination, and equal opportunities reveal the importance of the social aspect of economic development.

The fact that sustainability intersects with economic, social, and environmental areas makes one-dimensional examinations invalid. There are international initiatives that try to secure the present and the future at the same time.

First, in 1987, the World Commission on Economic Development (WCED) emphasized the 3 dimensions of the concept of sustainable development with the Brundtland report "Our Common Future".

Today, the United Nations has emphasized that all 3 dimensions of sustainability are equally important, with the Sustainable Development Goals targeted to be achieved by 2030.

Let's take a brief look at the international development of sustainability:

The Brundtland Report and Sustainability

The Brundtland report has an important place in the field of sustainability thanks to its comprehensive content.

What is needed to achieve sustainable development according to the Brundtland report published in 1987:

  • A political system that ensures effective citizen participation in decision-making.
  • An economic system that can provide surplus production and know-how in a self-sustaining and sustainable manner.
  • A social system capable of resolving the tensions arising from incompatible development.
  • A production system that respects the preservation of the environmental base necessary for development.
  • A technological system capable of constantly seeking new solutions.
  • An international system that supports sustainable patterns of trade and finance.
  • A governance system that is flexible and capable of self-correction.
  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 

With the "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" published in 2015, the United Nations demonstrated its commitment to the 3 key components of sustainable development. The 17 goals developed within this scope constitute a roadmap for a sustainable future. This development shows that the common perspective on economic, social, and environmental aspects continues in the international arena.

The interdependence of these 3 pillars shows the multifaceted nature of sustainability. It should not be forgotten that improvement or deterioration in a single dimension directly affects other dimensions. This feature of sustainability has been reaffirmed by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

 the 3 E's of Sustainability

The 3 dimensions of sustainability have an intertwined structure. Although they are defined separately, it is necessary to consider these dimensions as complementary elements. Therefore, in order to talk about the existence of sustainable development, there must be improvement and development in each dimension. The fact that they are closely interrelated makes these dimensions equally important.

Let's take a closer look at the economy, equity, and ecology dimensions that underpin sustainability.

1- Economic Dimension of Sustainability

The economic dimension of sustainability is closely related to issues such as economic growth, productivity, production processes, and investment.

In the economic dimension, how resources are used while increasing efficiency in the production of goods and services occupies an important place. The possibility of resource depletion raises potential risks related to the continuity of production. This is where the environmental dimension and renewable energy sources come into play.

Wastes generated as a result of production and consumption can also be evaluated under the economic component of sustainability. Wastes caused by economic activities may cause irreversible damage to the environment. In this context, all environmental risks that jeopardize the continuity of economic development are related to sustainability.

 Climate-oriented risks and the sectoral changes caused by them can also be evaluated under this dimension. Companies that want to carry their brands into the future manage their environmental impacts through sustainability policies. The reason for this is to reach customers with high environmental awareness and to comply with official regulations.

 2- Social/Equity Dimension of Sustainability

The social dimension of sustainability is related to the continuity of social values, relationships, and institutions for the future.

Ensuring social cohesion and the existence of common goals for the future indicate that social sustainability has been achieved.

Equality of opportunity, improvement in quality of life, ensuring rights and freedoms, and basic individual needs fall within the scope of the social component of sustainability.

In the social dimension, the 5 basic principles on which a sustainable society is based are as follows:

Equality: Ensuring equal opportunities for all members of society, especially for the most vulnerable and materially disadvantaged

Diversity: Promoting social diversity.

Engagement: Creating systems and structures at formal, informal, and institutional levels to ensure social cohesion within or outside the community

Quality of Life: Meeting basic needs and ensuring a good quality of life for all individuals

Democracy and Governance: Establish transparent and accountable governance structures in addition to democratic processes

3- Environmental Dimension of Sustainability

The environmental dimension of sustainability is related to the use of natural resources without harming ecosystems. The protection of the environment and the continuation of natural life fall within the scope of the environmental component of sustainability.

Environmental pollution resulting from production and consumption may jeopardize the needs of future generations if not prevented. The continuity of development is possible by ensuring sustainability in the environmental dimension.

In other words, the continuation of economic activities requires the protection of the earth. Improving the quality of life in social terms is also closely related to developments in the environmental dimension.

In order to ensure sustainable development in the environmental sense, biodiversity should be protected and irregular use of natural resources should be prevented. Thus, sustainability will be ensured both today and in the future.

It is important to remember that no economic activity and social structure can be evaluated independently of environmental factors.


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