The Three Pillars Of Sustainability

by | Jul 4, 2023 | Life

What is sustainability?

Sustainability, as a concept, extends beyond mere environmental considerations and encompasses the broader framework of meeting present needs while safeguarding the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. While natural resources play a vital role in this equation, it is important to recognize that sustainability encompasses social and economic dimensions as well.

It is crucial to recognize that sustainability requires a balance between environmental, social, and economic considerations. These dimensions are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. For instance, environmental degradation can lead to social and economic disruptions, while social inequalities can hinder sustainable development. By taking a holistic approach and considering all three pillars of sustainability, governments, businesses, and communities can work towards creating a future that meets the needs of the present generation while safeguarding the well-being and opportunities of future generations.

In short, sustainability is a comprehensive concept that encompasses environmental, social, and economic dimensions. It is about finding a harmonious balance that allows us to meet our current needs while preserving resources and opportunities for future generations. By addressing issues of social equity, promoting economic development, and ensuring responsible environmental stewardship, we can strive towards a sustainable future that leaves a positive legacy for generations to come.

The concept of the 3 pillars of sustainability

Three Pillars of Sustainability

There is no precise or uniform definition of the three pillars of sustainable development or sustainability. The meanings of the three pillars and the term “sustainability” itself are open to many alternative interpretations today.  The three pillars are designed to work in relationship with one another, with genuine sustainability only occurring when the three pillars are balanced, despite the fact that different people interpret the individual pillars differently.

  1. The social pillar of sustainability

Among other significant societal components, social sustainability encompasses environmental justice, human health, resource security, and education. According to the three pillars theory, initiatives to advance social sustainability ought to also target fostering economic and environmental advantages.

Businesses’ efforts to create social sustainability could include putting staff retention first rather than financial concerns. For example, investing in the welfare of employees is likely to benefit the business financially by promoting employee motivation.

Improved social sustainability has a beneficial influence on the environment, leading to positive outcomes for both people and the planet. Another example here is to promote healthy eating. This can improve the environment because people’s dietary decisions can have a significant impact on both human health and the health of the ecosystem.

  1. The economic pillar of sustainability 

The development of jobs, financial success, and accurate accounting of ecosystem services for the best cost-benefit evaluations are all aspects of the economic pillar of sustainability. Research on the labor market demonstrates that thanks to the resource stability that employment offers, high rates of employment are beneficial to both the economy and the social welfare of the populace. Thus, if employment provides individuals with stability, the economic forces that force businesses to need employees and people to need jobs can also promote social sustainability.

Social and economic sustainability are at odds with one another due to the economy. Due to the gig economy, many people contribute to the financial stability of businesses without being compensated with the social safety nets that are normally provided by employment.

The economic sustainability of an organization can also benefit from efforts to be more environmentally sustainable. Recycling valuable resources, such as electronic trash and textile waste, for instance, can cut operational expenses and the amount of resource extraction needed to keep businesses operating.

  1. The environmental pillar of sustainability

The goal of environmental sustainability is to protect the environment. This pillar covers the improvement of environmental stresses such as greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, and water quality. Human health and environmental conditions are closely linked, with human health being highly dependent on environmental quality. Consequently, actions taken to protect and restore the environment also benefit people.

The environment serves as a valuable source of natural resources that are essential for fostering sustainable economic growth in the long run. Natural resource extraction is essential for businesses to be economically viable. Through the ongoing availability of resources, efforts to extract resources at levels that are sustainable for the environment will also ensure economic sustainability. 

In addition to the crucial role of protecting the environment and supporting economic growth, environmental sustainability encompasses the preservation of ecological diversity and resilience. Ecosystems provide vital services such as clean air, fresh water, fertile soils, and natural habitats for a wide range of species. By conserving and restoring ecosystems, governments contribute to the overall stability and resilience of natural systems, ensuring their capacity to withstand environmental shocks and changes.

Three Pillars of Sustainability

The importance of the three pillars of sustainability 

The three pillars of sustainability offer the company a fresh, inviting environment in which to work and support them in renewing their commitments to fundamental objectives like shareholder value, efficiency, and sustainable growth. The three sustainability pillars also give businesses a better reputation and a more favorable public perception.

In comparison to proactive businesses, any organization that ignores sustainability will soon pay a price in the market and lose out on market profits. In other words, the opportunity to systematize multiple effects under a single idea is provided by the three pillars of sustainability. If ignored, sustainability will have a detrimental effect on many section operations.

The ultimate objective for the well-being of society should be to maintain the sustainability and stability of all three pillars. While concentrating on a specific pillar is crucial at various times, the pillars operate in concert with one another. The social pillar will be undermined by war, which will also harm the economic and environmental pillars.


In order to achieve the desired balance among the social, economic, and environmental entities for sustainable development, active participation and collaboration from various stakeholders are essential. While government intervention plays a crucial role, it is equally important for individuals, communities, businesses, and civil society to actively engage in sustainable practices. Each stakeholder has a unique role to play, whether it is adopting eco-friendly behaviors, implementing sustainable business strategies, or advocating for policy changes. 

True sustainability can only be attained when all levels of society work together, taking collective responsibility and being accountable for their actions. By fostering a culture of sustainability and embracing the principles of transparency, inclusivity, and long-term thinking, we can pave the way for a future where the well-being of people, the economy, and the environment are in harmony.

Dr. Bob Singhal

Professor Bhupendra 'Bob' Singhal, has taught creativity by joy and right-brain thinking, is a renowned international architect, won major design competitions, has over 70 awards, publications, and media mentions, and served as President of the American Institute of Architects South Bay. In 2011, in his book Joy in Health and Happiness: Your Optimal Path to Success, Professor Singhal wrote about the transformative power of joy and helped readers learn to enhance their daily experience of it.


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