Defining corporate sustainability

9th July 2014

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In the first major initiative since joining forces with IEMA, the Global Association of Corporate Sustainability Officers (GACSO) has launched a new white paper that aims to define corporate sustainability.

The white paper, Defining corporate sustainability, is seeking to establish a lexicon of sustainability terms to build a shared understanding of business critical sustainability challenges across a wide range of occupations and sectors.

It sets out proposed directions for defining corporate sustainability and these will now the subject of a major consultation exercise with IEMA and GACSO sustainability professionals to establish a common consensus on key definitions.

Commenting on the initiative, Francis Sullivan, GACSO founding member and deputy head of global corporate sustainability at HSBC, said: “The sustainability landscape needs focus and agreement – GACSO and IEMA are now well placed to catalyse this debate to provide clarity around the role sustainability professionals play in supporting long term business success.”

A number of overarching sustainability concepts are proposed in the white paper that will form the basis for the new lexicon, including the 1987 Brundtland definition of sustainable development, with supporting concepts relating to environmental limits and resilience of society and economy.

Other overarching generic terms include sustainable business, as an aspirational status description for organisations to achieve in the future, and, corporate responsibility, which GACSO describes as a corporate values-based approach to addressing responsibilities with an organisation’s wider stakeholders.

Corporate sustainability is considered as a process rather that a status and will be described as a cross-disciplinary based approach to identifying critical social, environmental and economic risks.

The white paper also proposes adopting four main principles as defined in BS 8900 – inclusivity, integrity, stewardship and transparency – on managing sustainable development in organisation, as part of the lexicon vocabulary.

GACSO and IEMA are now seeking feedback on proposals raised in the paper and will be engaging widely with members and with other interested parties. Four regional workshops (details below) are also planned over the summer, giving professionals the opportunity to explore and develop the sustainability lexicon.

“I would encourage anyone interested in corporate sustainability, from chief sustainability officers to HR professionals, to read this white paper and to contribute their thoughts,” said Sullivan.

Any individual or organisation interested in contributing to the lexicon debate is invited to submit comments, suggestions or proposals to [email protected].

Four workshops:

20 August – Edinburgh: to book

27 August – Sheffield: to book

28 August – Bristol: to book

4 September – Liverpool: to book


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