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General news sources for sustainable business:
- SustainableBusiness.com: Round-up of sustainable business news around from the world
- Sustainable business articles via The Conversation
- Corporate Knights: a non-academic, Canadian magazine that focuses on clean capitalism
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?
- HBS: What Does "Sustainability" Mean in Business?
- Google: Sustainable Business Definition
Key databases to search for articles and reports about sustainable business.
Business Source Complete (BSC)
BSC includes the full text of magazines and journals such as Sustainable Development, Journal of Sustainable Development, and Corporate Social Responsibility & Environmental Management.
Search BSC using subjects such as Sustainable development, Environmental management, Environmental responsibility, Renewable energy sources, Sustainable engineering, Sustainable tourism, Social responsibility of business, Environmental auditing, and Green marketing.
Canada Commons and Policy Commons
Policy Commons provides easy access to a very wide range of "grey literature" — publications from public policy institutes, research institutes, think tanks, advocacy groups, and university research centres around the world. Canada Commons includes a similar collection of grey literature, as well as ebooks from many Canadian university presses. Start by exploring Policy Commons for topics such as: ecolabelling, social accounting, and green economy to find reports such as A Critical Look at the ESG Market and SMEs as Social Enterprises: Regional Disparities, Access to Finance, Strategic Intentions.
Consult CBCA Complete for research on Canadian businesses. Search using subject terms 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 databases (CBCA, Business Source Complete, JSTOR, etc.). A few examples:
- Accounting, Auditing and Accountability
- Business Ethics Quarterly
- Business Strategy and the Environment
- Corporate Knights Magazine
- 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 often provide a deeper and broader treatment of a subject than you can get from either a journal article or a web site.
The SFU Library provides many books (both print and online) on sustainability, CSR, corporate governance, ethics, environmental policy and management. Search the SFU Library Catalogue using combinations of the following subjects:
- 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
Encyclopedias and almanacs
- Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries
- Encyclopedia of Sustainability
- Encyclopedia of Corporate Social Responsibility
- Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability -- see, especially, volume 2: The Business of Sustainability.
- Encyclopedia of Environment and Society [online] [print]
- Plunkett's Green Technology Industry Almanac 2022
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.
Statistics Canada - Sustainable Development Goals Data Hub
Canada's Statistics for the Sustainable Development Goal Indicators
Environmental Protection Agency
Check out the EPA's list of topics as well as EPA for Businesses and Non-Profits (last link goes to an archived version of that page since the current EPA site has deleted it) for a variety of links on various topics related to sustainability.
US Small Business Administration
Resources for small businesses, including examples of many sustainable practices among businesses
E3: Economy- Energy- Environment
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, blog posts and links and Resource Libraryexplre their Resource Library.
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 Canada-based, public policy research institute that conducts research on sustainable development. Explore their Publications and Articles pages for a range of resources on a variety of topics such as accountability, international trade and sustainable markets. Be sure to check out their Responsible Business section for strategies, tools, and more.
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
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne Library: Green Business : Sustainable Business
BCIT Library: Sustainable Business Leadership
UCLA Library: Sustainability
Other web guides
Natural Resource Defense Council: Policy Library
GreenBiz.com for news, blogs, reports, tools and more
David Suzuki Foundation: Science & Learning Centre
Harvard Business Review topic pages: Sustainability & Social Responsibility
(Note that SFU researchers have online and print access to HBR articles that aren't available fulltext on these topic pages.)
SAGE Business Cases
Includes many cases in sustainability sub-disciplines of business, but some of the other cases also touch on related issues such as climate change, pollution, and corporate responsibility.
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. Start with their Resource Center.
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 Developing Sustainably 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