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Making sense of Sustainability and Social Responsibility

Guest Blog by Justin Gauvin, Executive Director of Verego

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From the surface, sustainability and social responsibility are synonymous terms, two sides of the same coin. It is only when one looks deeper into their meanings that the subtle differences raise to the surface. The idea of sustainability comes from the fundamental concept of sustainable development: meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The concept of sustainability looks through the lense of the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits. The notion of the triple bottom line aims at accounting for all the impacts of an organization into a common set of bottom-line metrics that determine the value of investments based the long-term sustainment of economic, social, and environmental capital. Aiming to sustain the long-term economic, social, and environmental capital over generations is a worthy and important objective for any organization to aspire to, yet many organizations are struggling to put this into action because for many people the concept is hard to grasp and the metrics these market-based organizations are using to make decisions are conflicting with each other.

Making it simple: Social Responsibility as the “how” and Sustainability as the “why”

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At Verego, we believe looking at an organization as a living person with morals, ethics, values, and responsibilities is a more approachable and useful lense to look at an organization than a long-term development of economic, social, and environmental capital. At the end of the day, any organization is made of people and all people understand that acting responsibly is something all of us aim to do everyday. That is why at Verego, we have found many organizations resonate with the idea of Social Responsibility because it turns the language of sustainability into a something that is naturally intuitive for humans rather than a language that is based off of capital and long-term development. Everyone deals with responsibility everyday; it’s a fact of life. If we view organizations as human systems, instilling the values of acting responsibly in ways that benefit the lives of people, communities, and local environments, enables the human side of any enterprise to adopt an approachable roadmap for ethically conducting business and ultimately creating a better future. Most importantly, Social Responsibility transcends the conflict of balancing competing bottom lines by providing an easy to put into action, approachable mindset that emphasizes the commitment to responsibly lead, manage employees, communities, environmental impacts, as well as upholding a corporate ethic that addresses the interests of all stakeholders

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