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Coggin College of Business
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Center for Sustainable Business Practices

A business practice that is economically viable, socially responsible and environmentally friendly is usually regarded as being sustainable. Corporations that include socially responsible and environmentally sound policies as core elements in their growth strategy very often create sustainable economic values.

What is Sustainability?

There are many ways to define sustainability. While there is no universal definition of sustainability, there is broad consensus that sustainability can be viewed as a holistic system, inclusive of nature and man-made, that needs to be regenerative and balanced in order to last a very long period of time. In the business-world, sustainability is viewed as a form of triple-bottom-line reporting system whereby a business enterprise communicates to their stakeholders its:

  • Economic (profit) performance
  • Environmental (planet) performance
  • Social (people) performance

The goal in developing sustainable business practices is to create strategies that preserve the long-term viability of People, Plant and Profit, the proverbial triple bottom line. Sustainability requires that we see the world as an integrated system that connects businesses to society and the environment through both space and time. Pollution in one part of the world affects others thousands of miles away. Socially responsible corporate strategies impact communities not only today, but also leave lasting impressions for generations to come.

A Brief History of Sustainability

In 1969 United States passed major legislation to protect the environment.

  • In 1973 the United States enacted legislation to protect endangered species.
  • In 1972 at the Conference on the Human Environment the global community met to explore the inter-relationship between the environment, economy and society.
  • In 1987 the Brundtland Report provided a pioneering definition of sustainability, "… development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
  • In 1992 the first Earth Summit met with a purpose to develop a global consensus on the needs to balance economic development against an increasingly imperiled global ecosystem.
  • In 1999 Dow Jones launched its Sustainability Index, which became the first global sustainability benchmark that tracked stock performance on economic, environmental and social criteria.
  • In 2000 the United Nations developed the Global that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption."
  • In 2002 the Global Reporting Initiative released the first global guidelines for corporate reporting of sustainability.
  • In 2012 the Rio +20 summit recommitted governments and businesses to creating institutional framework for sustainable development.

Goals and Activities

  • Student Development - Fieldwork, internships and research activities that allow students to work with businesses and non-profit organizations focused on developing sustainabl strategies.
  • Curriculum - Integrating concepts related to sustainable business practices into courses.
  • Research - Foster the development of a sustainability-centric research agenda. Provide the platform for quick and efficient transfer of university-based research to companies, especially small and medium enterprises.
  • Executive Education - Educate corporate executives/managers and small/medium business owners with practical business strategies that foster ecological and economic sustainability.
  • Business Support - Work with existing businesses and organizations to develop the tools for success in an emerging, sustainable economy.
  • Forums and Speaker Series - Serve as a forum where groups can collaborate to remove barriers to achieving ecological and economic sustainability while learning and sharing ideas about sustainable enterprises.

How we Achieve our Goals

  • Conversation - Engaging in dialogue with stakeholders to determine best practices and opportunities for knowledge sharing.
  • Collaboration - Working with stakeholders, businesses, academia and public enterprises, to develop innovative business procedure and practices.
  • Connection - Discovering others with similar interest in advancing sustainable business practices and creating a community of practice.