What is sustainability?

Sustainability means ‘the capacity to endure’.

A sustainable business is one that generates profit while improving societal and environmental conditions, “meeting our needs without stopping future generations meeting their needs.”

Sustainability means many things. In a business context it is about having an integrated approach that takes into consideration environmental concerns along with economic development. It involves making decisions that are good for your shareholders, your community, your employees, and your environment. It is about thinking about how you do business, and becoming resilient and able to respond to market conditions that are changing rapidly. It aligns corporate profit motive with environmental and social agendas.  It is the ability for society and the economy to coexist in balance with the environment.


Benefits of sustainability

Results of operating sustainably include:

  • long-term inclusive growth
  • operational & resource efficiency
  • effective risk management
  • higher share price
  • lower cost of capital
  • good financial performance
  • ability to attract and retain talent
  • resilience

Businesses are rebuilding after the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis. A key component of business regrowth will be leadership, and leading with purpose and values that extend beyond the financial and consider wider societal values. Chartered Accountants Ireland are working with decision-makers to influence this economic regrowth, and advocate on behalf of our members in business and in practice. 

Background to sustainability

In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Today, there are almost 140 developing countries in the world seeking ways of meeting their development needs, but with the increasing threat of climate change, concrete efforts must be made to ensure development today does not negatively affect future generations.

The Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals form the framework for improving the lives of populations around the world and mitigating the hazardous man-made effects of climate change. Also known as the 'Global Goals' or 'SDGs', they are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. 

The Goals address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. 

The 17 Goals are all interconnected, and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve them all by 2030. 

Ireland and the SDGs

Governments, businesses and individuals in Ireland are mobilising efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Agenda by 2030. Ireland's hub for the Sustainable Development Goals is a collaboration platform for reporting on progress towards the Goals and sharing information on related initiatives. Ireland's progress against each Goal is measured using a set of United Nations (UN) global and European Union (EU) agreed targets and indicators.



The terminology of sustainability can be confusing. We have put together a list of sustainability and sustainable accounting terms to help clarify it. If we are missing any terms please send us an email to sustainability@charteredaccountants.ie 


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