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The term sustainability encompasses the notion of using resources in a way that keeps them intact for future generations. The most prevalent definition is from the Brundtland Commission (also known as the World Commission on Environment and Development [WCED]), which states that "sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."1
In terms of business, sustainability usually refers to the following three elements: environmental accountability, social accountability, and financial accountability. For the purposes of this guide, we've used a very broad definition of Sustainable Business, encompassing the environmental and social impacts of conducting business, and covering such things as corporate governance, "triple bottom line" accountability, and green business - all concepts that involve helping organisations create long-term, sustainable value for all their stakeholders.
More definitions on the web:
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: What is Sustainability?
- Financial Times Lexicon: Business Sustainability
- Google: Sustainable Business Definition
Search for subjects headings such as Sustainable development, Environmental management, Environmental responsibility, Renewable energy sources, Sustainable engineering, Sustainable tourism, Social responsibility of business, Environmental auditing, and Green marketing.
Canadian Electronic Library
The Canadian Electronic Library contains publications from a variety of Canadian public policy institutes, research institutes, think tanks, advocacy groups, government agencies and university research centres.
Contains the full text of reports such as Corporate Sustainability Reporting in Canada by the Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation and The Role of Sustainable Development Indicators in Corporate Decision-Making by the International Institute for Sustainable Development.
Consult the CBCA Complete for research on Canadian businesses. Search for subjects such as:
Sustainability management, Sustainable development, Sustainable reporting, Environmental ethics, Environmental management, Environmental accounting, Green products, Social investing, Green marketing.
Environment Complete covers journals such as Business Strategy & the Environment and the International Environmental Technology. Use subject terms such as Green business, Sustainable design, Clean energy industries, Green products, Green marketing, Sustainable development, Sustainable development reporting, Corporate environmentalism.
Search GreenFile for subjects such as Green business, Sustainability, Sustainable development reporting, Corporate environmentalism, Sustainable development, Sustainable buildings.
Looking for government information on sustainable business in Google or Google Scholar? Try doing a search that limits to government sites. Search for your term plus site: (whatever domain you want to search within). E.g., "triple bottom line" site:gc.ca or "sustainability" site:gov.bc.ca or site:ca "corporate governance" canada
Journals & magazines in the Library:
The SFU Library Catalogue A-Z Journals list provides access to fulltext of electronic journals available to SFU Library users, on the web and through selected periodical indexes (CBCA, Business Source Complete, JSTOR, etc.). A few examples:
- Accounting, Auditing and Accountability
- Business and the Environment
- Business Ethics Quarterly
- Business Strategy and the Environment
- Corporate Knights Magazine - Also see the following report from the research arm of Corporate Knights: 2012 Clean Capitalism Report
- Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management
- Environment & Energy Bulletin / Business Council of British Columbia
- International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
- Issues in Social & Environmental Accounting
- Journal of Business Ethics
- Journal of Sustainable Development
- Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment
- Social and Environmental Accountability Journal
- Stanford Social Innovation Review
Books and ebooks
Books often provide a deeper and broader treatment of a subject than you can get from either a journal article or a web site.
Start by browsing our Sustainable Organization Library database, which is a collection of hundreds of ebooks and articles on sustainability, CSR, corporate governance, ethics, environmental policy and management.
- Business -- Environmental aspects
- Business Enterprises -- Environmental Aspects
- Business Ethics -- Study and Teaching
- Environmental Economics
- Environmental Management
- Green Marketing
- Green Movement
- Social Responsibility of Business
- Sustainable Development
- Sustainable Development British Columbia
- Sustainable Development Canada
- Sustainable Development Reporting
- Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries
- Encyclopedia of Sustainability
- Encyclopedia of corporate social responsibility
- Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability [print] [online: vol 1] [online: vol 2] -- description at BUEC Buzz
- Encyclopedia of environment and society [online] [print]
Governments at all levels can be great sources of information, and in many cases, they provide the information you need for free on their websites. Here is a brief list of some key sites.
- City of Vancouver: Greenest City 2020 Action Plan
- LiveSmart BC: Information on Government Action, Green Business Tools, Small Business Program
- BC Ministry of Environment: Section on Climate Change includes legislation and regulations as well as Ministry reports and data.
- Environment and Climate Change Canada: Provides many reports and guides on topics such as Sustainable Development, Pollution Prevention, and Climate Change.
- Industry Canada: They have a section on Sustainable Development as well as information on Corporate Social Responsibility and Eco-efficiency.
- Environmental Protection Agency: Check out their section Learn the Issues and also EPA for Businesses and Non-Profits for a variety of links on various topics related to sustainability.
- US Small Business Administration: Resources for small businesses: Green Business Guide
- E3: Economy- Energy- Environment is a partnership of five US Federal Agencies, designed to promote sustainable development for businesses.
- United Nations Environment Programme: Many links and resources to environmental information, as well as resources for specific groups and regions.
Associations and industry organizations often have publications, news, and links to further resources. The following are a few of the many associations and organizations associated with Sustainable Business. To search for other organizations, try the sources listed in the Associations library subject guide. Also, try looking for Links or Partners at the sites of each of these organizations.
- Canadian Business for Social Responsibility: A non-profit organization that helps Canadian companies make business decisions to improve performance and focus on Corporate Social Responsibility. Under Resources, check for Links, Publications, Newsletters and Blog for information.
- Canada Green Building Council: Focusing on high-performing, healthy green buildings, homes and communities throughout Canada, CGBC works on best practices, industry standards, and education. Look for information on LEED standards and GREEN UP, Canada's Building Performance Program.
- Network for Business Sustainability: Academic and industry thought leaders sharing sustainability knowledge, with the goal of shaping management practice and research. Look for resources, reports, blogs and links to the Knowledge Centre.
- The Prince's Accounting for Sustainability Project: From the UK, works with businesses, investors, the public sector, accounting bodies, NGOs and academics to develop practical guidance and tools for embedding sustainability into decision-making and reporting processes.
- World Business Council for Sustainable Development: A CEO-led organization that works with the global business community toward a sustainable future for business, society and the environment. Under Resources there are links to case studies and other resources for businesses.
- International Institute for Sustainable Development: The IISD is a Canadian-based, public policy research institute that conducts research on sustainable development. Their Publications Centre offers a range of resources on a variety of topics such as accountability, international trade and sustainable markets.
- Ceres: Leads a national coalition of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change and water scarcity. Under Resources, check for news, reports, webinars, podcasts and videos.
You may find more websites, videos and other useful links from other guides found online. Here are a select few:
Academic library guides
- UBC Library: Sustainable Business Guide
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne Library: Green Business Guide
- BCIT Library: Sustainable Business Leadership Guide
- VirginiaTech Library: Sustainability Research Guides
Other web guides
- Natural Resource Defense Council: Policy Library
- IISD: Business and Sustainable Development: A Global Guide
- GreenBiz.com for news, blogs, reports, tools and more
- David Suzuki Foundation: Climate change resources for business
- Canadian Chartered Accountants: Essential Links and Other Resources for Sustainability
- PricewaterhouseCoopers: Sustainability and Climate Change, Research and Insights
- Harvard Business Review: Green Guide
General news sources for sustainable business.
- SustainableBusiness.com: Round-up of sustainable business news around from the world
- Sustainable Business articles in The New York Times
- The Guardian's Sustainable Business section
- Sustainable Business articles in The Wall Street Journal
- BUEC Buzz: Sustainability: Part of the SFU Library's blog on business resources & strategies.
- Corporate Knights: a non-academic, Canadian magazine that focuses on clean capitalism
- World Resources Institute: BELL Teaching Cases. These cases are free to use for instructors and students; they explore sustainability-related business challenges and business decisions that identify environmental challenges as business development opportunities.
- Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education: AASHE aims to improve sustainability in higher education. They have a variety of free resources as well as resources only available to members.
- Global Reporting Initiative: A non-profit organization that promotes sustainability by providing businesses with a sustainability reporting framework. Their goal is to have businesses report on their economic, environmental, and social performance as routinely as their financial reporting. Their Resource Library offers many downloads, and their Reporting hub also contains resources.
- Deloitte: Sustainability Services. (Also check out Deloitte's University Press section on Sustainability.)
- The ISO 14000 family of standards is related to Environmental Management, which ISO describes as what organizations do to reduce the effects of their activities on the environment, and how they are working to improve their environmental performance.
- For information on ISO and sustainability, see their Sustainable Development page.
1. World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our Common Future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (Chapter 2: Towards Sustainable Development). Retrieved from http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm