What Does Sustainability Mean?
WHAT DOES "SUSTAINABLE" MEAN?
For something to be “sustainable”, it must balance how it meets human needs with its ability to continue to do so for the foreseeable future, without degrading the natural environment.
Is it regulated? Nope.
Does Finch use it? Only to refer to specific processes or components.
Want a memory trick?
Try thinking about the 3 ‘E’s. AKA the UN’s three main pillars of sustainability: Environmental protection, social Equality, and Economic growth.
CAN A PRODUCT BE SUSTAINABLE?
It’s important to note that we have yet to find a single product on the market that is fully sustainable. Certain components may be more sustainable than that of other more conventional products on the market, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a home run.
For example, a cream claiming to have sustainable packaging because it is packaged in a glass bottle may contain ingredients that may cause harm to ecosystems, like Triheptanoin, Panthenol and Xanthan Gum.
We are optimistic that products will soon highlight which specific aspects of it can be preferred from a sustainability perspective over competitors without a catch-all phrase of sustainable, green, non-toxic, chemical-free, ethical, eco-friendly, all-natural, biodegradable, or compostable.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY OF ‘SUSTAINABILITY’?
While the concept of sustainability has been around for as long as humans have, the original term appeared in a handbook of forestry published in 1713, called Nachhaltigkeit, meaning “sustained yield” in German. The translated term appeared in English in the 1850s and evolved to refer not just to forests, but all biological systems. In 1987, the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations defined sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The commission later noted that there are three main pillars of sustainable development, which include economic growth, environmental protection, and social equality. Economic growth reinforces the importance of finding methods to generate growth without hurting the environment, environmental protection leads to investments in renewable energy and less resource extraction, and social equality and equity are pillars that focus on the social well-being of people.
HOW DOES FINCH USE THE TERM ‘SUSTAINABLE’?
At Finch, you’ll see us continue to use the words ‘sustainable’ and ‘sustainability’ because we haven’t found a perfect replacement that embodies all the smaller details that make our world a better place. When we say it, we mean a product, process, or component can meet the needs of our current generation without compromising future ones, and we will only use it when our claims can be backed up by science.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUSTAINABLE VS. GREEN VS. ECO-FRIENDLY?
Sustainability is complicated and confusing enough as it is, and words like ‘clean’ and ‘green’ aren’t helping. Our rule of thumb is to think twice when a product tells you it’s green, clean, or even sustainable.
Because there is no regulation around the use of these types of words, companies have co-opted them to be used for their own marketing purposes, like Fiji Water’s slogan “every drop is green,” or this overnight cream that wins a “Clean & Planet Positive Beauty” badge (oh hello, greenwashing, how not nice to see you!).