SintroduCtion to SuStainaBLe deveLopment Sustainable development is an integral factor in companies’ long-term business success. 4 Over the past fifty years, the concept of “development” has tended to mean the promotion of economic growth, both at country and individual company levels. The provision of basic needs, however, has remained out of kilter and the blind pursuit of growth for growth’s sake has often resulted in significant damage to the environment. Occasionally weird situations have occurred whereby environmental damage has positively contributed to GDP by creating a market for new services to eliminate such damage, mainly caused by industry in the first place! Companies’ strategies and operations have basically been driven by the profit motive and social and environmental issues have been considered to be cost-factors and any measures to manage them have been limited to compliance with legal requirements. The recognition that our world is no longer sustainable has finally sunk in, and forced us to develop a new way of behaving.
The holistic concept of sustainable development (SD) now appears to have become the new long-term model for future development, integrating and balancing, as it does, environmental and social issues with economic considerations in decision-making processes. The concept has to replace traditional thinking and should be the answer to problems related to today’s environmental and social capital. The business community has a crucial role to play in the furtherance of SD. There is growing evidence that responsible behaviour by companies with regard to social and environmental issues can contribute to their long-term business success. Consequently, the ultimate objective for companies is to establish a new systemic approach. They will now have to adopt behaviour which goes way beyond local issues since SD requires international thinking and action to integrate its three pillars equally into corporate strategy and programmes in all operating areas. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the implementation of sustainable development. Each industrial field and company naturally has different sets of objectives, traditions and practices and therefore has to identify and develop its very own specific tasks and objectives. 5