Sustainability is the word we use to talk about
Maybe it’s the wrong word to use, because of its connection with ‘green’ or environmental issues.
But we find it useful because it is broad enough to cover a number of related ideas.
We could just talk about organisational survival. But is sustainability really just about survival? Things change and things end. And your organisation won’t survive by staying the same. It has to evolve.
We could also talk about financial viability. But organisations can be financially healthy and still fail. Sustainability takes five capabilities. Income generation matters, but so do involvement, innovation, improvement and impact.
We also need to be honest – it’s not all about organisations. What right does your organisation have to exist? Who does it serve? What difference does it make? Sometimes sustainability is about equipping other people not to need us anymore. Building the capacity of people, communities and other services to sustain things for themselves. Sustainability is about impact, not just organisations.
For all these reasons, we define sustainability as the capacity (of an organisation, service or system) to make a lasting difference. Our research has identified the five core capabilities of sustainable organisations.