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What You Should Know About the 3 Pillars of Sustainability 

Is your business committed to sustainability? You may have heard of the three pillars of sustainability , which encompass social, economic, and environmental dimensions. These pillars serve as the bedrock for companies aiming to strike a harmonious balance between profitability and responsibility.

It’s becoming more obvious that customers and would-be buyers care deeply about the companies they do business with and how these businesses help the world. In fact, 77% of customers are more inclined to buy from companies that are committed to making the world a better place.

Investing in corporate sustainability helps center the wellbeing of the planet, business performance, and social impact. The three pillars of corporate sustainability are an incredible framework and approach to creating value for shareholders, employees, and customers.

The doors to corporate sustainability really opened with the publishing of the Brundtland Report, which was released in 1987, after the establishment of sustainability at the United Nations Conference on the Environment in 1972.  The Brundtland Report is often said to have introduced the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environment. This foundation has proven critical for businesses across the world. 

In this blog, you’ll learn just what goes into corporate sustainability, how the three pillars are applicable in a corporate context, and how you can build the three pillars into the way you do business.


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The Creation of the Three Pillars of Corporate Sustainability

Though the Brundtland Report is often credited with introducing the idea of three pillars of sustainability, recent research indicates that this framework likely emerged over time, from several different areas of idea development. 

The popular diagram of three circles was first introduced to help developing nations strategize their own approach to sustainability. Since then, as thought and work around planet-friendly practices has continued to evolve, corporations and other entities have taken up using the approach to embrace a better way of doing business.

A few key ways you can integrate sustainability into your business include:

  • Develop a mission statement that complements sustainability goals—this will provide the direction your company should take
  • Establish strategies and benchmarks that help you track how your sustainable work is performing
  • Get leadership involved—their guidance and input can help the deployment of the three pillars of sustainability into your business practice

What Goes into Corporate Sustainability?

Corporate sustainability is a multifaceted approach that businesses adopt to create long-term value through responsible environmental, social, and economic strategies. Stemming from the foundational concept of the "three pillars of sustainability," it emphasizes the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental factors.

Companies like McDonald’s prioritize corporate sustainability , recognizing its growing importance to investors who seek both economic profit and social good. Implementing sustainability requires understanding the principles of the three pillars, setting clear goals, and tracking progress.

Transparent reporting on sustainability goals and achievements helps the public gauge a company's contribution to a sustainable global economy.

Additionally, sustainable development ensures that we meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. It's a holistic framework that intertwines all three considerations, as we mentioned above. 

By adopting the three pillars of sustainability, we can foster economic growth without depleting our planet's resources. This approach not only safeguards our environment but also promotes social equity and economic stability.

Moreover, the pillars of sustainable development reshape the narrative of progress. They emphasize that development shouldn't come at the expense of our planet or societal well-being.


The Benefits of Corporate Sustainability at a Glance

The What The Why
Environmental Conservation Reduces the negative impact on the environment, conserving natural resources.
Cost Savings Sustainable practices often lead to reduced operational costs over time.
Risk Management Mitigate potential regulatory, legal, and environmental risks. 
Better Employee Morale Employees are more motivated when they feel their work contributes to a cause.


What Are the Three Pillars of Sustainability ?

For your journey towards a sustainable future, understanding the three pillars of sustainability is crucial. These pillars—social, economic, and environmental—serve as your guideposts.

The social pillar emphasizes your well-being and that of your community. The economic pillar ensures your financial stability and growth, while also promoting responsible practices. Lastly, the environmental pillar encourages you to protect and cherish the world around you. 

By balancing these interconnected pillars, you're not only securing a prosperous present but also ensuring a thriving future for generations to come. Embrace them, and you'll be at the forefront of creating lasting, positive change.


This pillar is all about you, your community, and the broader society. It emphasizes the importance of your well-being, health, and education. For businesses, it's not just about profits; it's about valuing you, your team, and ensuring everyone’s well-being. 

Think about the choices you make daily, like establishing business practices that lead to higher employee retention. (For example, offering remote work options or flexible schedules.)

When companies prioritize the social pillar , they're saying they care about you more than just their bottom line. They're investing in resource security, environmental justice, and education that directly benefit you. 

Moreover, high employment rates, which are a part of this pillar, ensure that you and your community thrive. Think about employing better maternity leave policies and other options that make your business a desirable place to work.

By understanding and championing the social pillar , you're not only advocating for your rights but also ensuring a harmonious and inclusive environment for everyone. Remember, true sustainability is achieved when you and your community are at the heart of it.



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For business leaders, the economic pillar of sustainability, also referred to as the governance pillar, is a cornerstone for driving long-term growth and stability. This is where you align your sustainability goals with shareholders and your local community.

This is your opportunity to demonstrate that your enterprise uses accurate, transparent reporting, and that the way you do business is all above board. 

Leaders who prioritize economic sustainability are not only safeguarding their company's future but are also setting a gold standard for responsible and visionary leadership in the business world.


Every choice you make, from the products you consume to the habits you adopt, directly impacts the environment. By consciously reducing waste, conserving energy, and supporting sustainable practices, you play a pivotal role in safeguarding the environment.

Tip: By taking a look at the ways you can reduce the use of packing materials and your carbon footprint, you can also save on costs. 

By championing this cause, you're not just making a difference today but shaping a sustainable future for everyone.

For example, Budderfly helped Crown Point Health Suites with 3,500 lighting enhancements (at no upfront cost to Crown Point) to improve energy efficiency. Crown Point saved 5,000 kWh a month, and the health facilities have saved 181,000 kWh to date. 

What is the Fourth Pillar I’ve Seen Mentioned?

The fourth pillar of sustainability, often referred to as the "cultural" or "civic" pillar, is a more recent addition to the traditional three-pillar model. While the initial three pillars focus on the environment, society, and economy, the fourth pillar emphasizes the importance of culture and heritage in sustainable development. 

Here, you can recognize that the values, beliefs, and traditions you hold dear play a crucial role in shaping sustainable practices and decisions.

The way you perceive "development" or "progress" is often influenced by cultural narratives and historical contexts. By understanding and respecting diverse cultural perspectives, you can foster more inclusive and holistic sustainable practices.

Moreover, the fourth pillar highlights the significance of cultural heritage, arts, and traditions in building resilient communities.

How Can I Build the Sustainable Development Pillars Into My Enterprise?

Here are just a few of the ways you can collect information and build the pillars into your enterprise :

  • Assess the way you do business, including your goals and opportunities. What sustainability goals align with your business?
  • Use this information to define your mission statement with this project and what direction you should go.
  • Get leadership involved—insights and guidance can be invaluable.
  • Collaborate with stakeholders. Get input on additional ways you can go more sustainable with your business.
  • Establish KPIs to track progress in the changes your enterprise makes. 

Let Budderfly Help You Work Toward the Three Pillars of Sustainability

You've journeyed through the three pillars of sustainability, understanding their profound impact on our world.

Now, imagine a partner that seamlessly integrates these pillars into your business operations. 

Our portfolio of energy-efficient technology, available at no upfront cost to you, can help you achieve your sustainability KPIs. 

Our technology includes:

  • 24/7 energy monitoring
  • LED lighting
  • HVAC upgrades
  • And more

Why wait? Dive into a partnership with Budderfly today and let's co-create a sustainable legacy for your business.

Ready to make a change? Let Budderfly guide you every step of the way.



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