The term “sustainability” is multifaceted and can be applied in many different areas and interpreted in various ways.
According to the Brundtland Report (1987), sustainability can be described as follows: "Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." The concept of sustainability consists of the three pillars economy, environment and social affairs. The economic, social and environmental processes are interconnected, so that the actions of public and private actors cannot be regarded as isolated, but rather there is an interrelation between the three dimensions.
The term “sustainable development” is also common. It means more than just environmental protection. To satisfy our material and immaterial needs, it requires economic well-being and a society based on solidarity. Sustainable development requires a long-term structural change in our economic and social system with the aim of reducing the consumption of the environment and resources to a sustainable level while maintaining economic performance and social cohesion.
As far as companies and investors are concerned, the principle of sustainability should encourage them to make decisions with regard to environmental, social and human impacts in the long term, rather than focusing on short-term profits or benefits. This applies to companies and states as well as to individuals. For example, companies can achieve their sustainability goals by reducing their emissions, lowering their energy consumption, making their supply chain fairer and greener, and ensuring that waste is disposed of properly and with as little carbon as possible. The restructuring towards sustainable production is, however, usually complex and costly. Nevertheless, by basing decisions on longer time horizons, some of the higher investments, for example in efficiency and renewable sources, will pay off.