The Three Pillars Of Corporate Sustainability

Since the pandemic began and nations started to implement nationwide lockdowns to slow down the pace of the spread of the deadly virus, many businesses have been forced to close up or run things remotely due to social distancing norms. Companies are experiencing an increasing reliance on HR for business continuity and corporate sustainability.

What is corporate sustainability?

Sustainability in business is a strategy that organizations adopt to address the effect of their business activities on the environment and the people. It is a management paradigm that identifies the necessity of corporate growth and profitability, but also requires that businesses must focus on achieving societal goals especially those relating to sustainable development. Simply put, sustainability is defined as meeting today’s needs without adversely affecting the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

Corporate sustainability has three pillars: economic sustainability; environmental sustainability; and social sustainability. These three pillars are informally referred to as profit, planet, and people.

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The economic pillar of sustainability addresses the bottom-line of businesses that is their profit. Companies have to make profits to remain sustainable. Activities that are important for companies to remain profitable such as proper corporate governance and adequate risk management are given in detail under the economic pillar of sustainability.

The environmental pillar of sustainability is concerned with the impact of business activities on the environment. It is no surprise that this gets the most attention of the three. Through ensuring environmental sustainability, companies are conscious of their activities and try to reduce activities that have damaging consequences on the earth. The financial benefit that comes with ensuring environmental sustainability has also incentivized businesses to increase their efforts towards reducing business activities that harm the environment.

The social pillar that makes up the trio of corporate sustainability addresses the impact of the business on people. Here, the people refer to the employee wellbeing, the stakeholders, and the community where the business operates. Social responsibility highlights the necessity of a business to acquire the approval of these individual entities for sustainability. The approaches to securing and maintaining this support are various, but it comes down to treating employees fairly and being a good neighbor and community member, both locally and globally.

Of the three pillars on which corporate sustainability sits, social sustainability is the most difficult aspect of sustainability to measure. In general, social sustainability addresses performance issues such as approaches to securing and maintaining this support are various, but it comes down to treating employees fairly and being a good neighbor and community member, both locally and globally.

Social sustainability speaks to the necessity and importance of the relationship between employees, stakeholders, and businesses. As such, organizations must identify proactive ways to manage and identify how their business activities affect employees, workers in the value chain, customers, and local communities.

For a business to thrive, it has to harness quality relationships with the people and society. No business can operate without the input of these societal elements. Businesses that recognize this ensure that social responsibility becomes a part of their core business strategy. A socially sustainable business will consider the safety of its workers in a particular location. The following explains the importance of social sustainability to businesses.

A socially sustainable business is a risk-free business

When a business is socially sustainable, it helps the people involved with the business to share a kind of connection that transcends beyond just a business relationship. A company that shows care about the welfare of its employees is most likely to have a loyal workforce, unlike a company that simply employs and pays.

Aside from that, poor social sustainability poses a risk factor to the brand of the organization and this can affect the sales aspect of the business. For instance, an organization that ignores safety measures meant to protect public health can cost food manufacturers a lot of money through government-backed recalls of products from market shelves.

Provision of safe working conditions

The days when people just buy products without showing any ounce of concern for the processes involved in the production of goods seem like ages now. Today, the average customer is very well informed. They have an idea of what goes on behind the scenes. Consumers are more concerned now, more than ever before.

People care about the environmental and social impact of the products they purchase. And if they see that an organization’s modus operandi isn’t sustainable, they stop to purchase goods produced by that organization. Organizations have even keyed into this idea and are now using it as a marketing tool to promote their businesses.

Aside from the product and organization’s supply chain, consumers are also aware of the treatment of workers by an organization. It is expected that organizations treat their employees fairly and per ethical standards. As a result of these, organizations have become extra careful with their dealings. Many companies are not teaming up with social sustainability organizations to become more transparent.

Other ways social sustainability can help businesses according to the UN Global Compact are: unlocking new markets; helping retain and attract business partners: becoming the source of innovation for a new product or service line; raising internal morale and employee engagement; improving risk management; improving company-community conflicts.

How the coronavirus pandemic is increasing the role of HR in social sustainability

Over the years, the role of HR in organizations has evolved. Now, human resource personnel gets to have a seat at the decision-making table. From talent management tasks such as recruiting, hiring, firing, and training to becoming a strategic business partner, the importance of the role of the HR department in an organization cannot be overemphasized.

But aside from helping an organization design a talent management framework that creates a competitive advantage for an organization to achieve success, HR also helps organizations create and implement corporate social responsibility schemes that help with the social sustainability outlook of an organization.

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With the pandemic still in full force, business resilience and sustainability now relies heavily on the shoulders of HR personnel. The function of the human resource departments in organizations has now involved a full implementation of social sustainability tasks. HR looks to keep open communication with employees working from home while also keeping a lid on organization efforts to provide financial support for local communities.

This expansion in HR duties has led many to believe that the post-pandemic era will see HR duties become more significant like never before.


  • Green Human Resource Management as a Tool for the Sustainable Development of Enterprises: Polish Young Company Experience by Edyta Bombiak and Anna Marciniuk|| 2018
  •  HR Has Key Role in Sustainability Strategy b Steve Bates|| April 11, 2011
  • Importance of Corporate Sustainability by Linly Ku

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