Why is it important to bust the Jargon in the field of Sustainability?

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Feed Your Green Brain, let’s bust some Sustainability Jargon.

If you spend enough time working on a certain topic or field, whether it be software development, medicine or marketing, there are usually certain words, concepts and terms specific to that field that find their way into your daily language and speech. 

You guessed it, we’re talking about jargon.

The sustainability field is no different. Here at The Green Sprint, we spend most of our time thinking, reading, talking or dreaming about sustainability. And we keep discovering new concepts, terms and words.  Aristotle was so right when he said: “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.”

There are tons of technical terms, acronyms and abbreviations flying around. CSR, ESG, GRI, net-zero, carbon negative, carbon positive, circular, regenerative, purpose, and many, many, many more. 

Now, jargon words aren’t bad per se – they’re actually meant to communicate a concept faster – but using jargon words can become a big hurdle, especially when you assume everyone understands their meaning in the same way, or when you don’t realize you’re doing it anymore. 

To accelerate the sustainability transition, it’s crucial to engage with people in all levels and areas of the organisation, involve them in our mission and get lots of people excited about what we want to achieve. Not everyone has to become an expert, but complexity and lack of understanding does often lead to inactivity. And that’s the exact opposite of what we want to achieve right?

Working with all sorts of people – from ‘newbie enthusiast’ to experienced professionals – we feel that misunderstandings and miscommunications around the meaning of certain terms are actually quite common. 

In our workshops, we encourage a curiosity mindset, and take time to uncover the different understandings of a term. Because to be able to develop effective strategies and solutions, we can’t assume anything, and most importantly, we all need to be on the same page. 

So… let’s bust some Sustainability Jargon! 

In the coming weeks, we’ll dive into some of the terminology buzzing around in our field. Of course we don’t want anyone to brain-overload, so we’re starting “Feed-your-Green-Brain Friday” and serve you some bite-size pieces. We hope you can use it in your organization, with your team, or even with your friends over drinks, to spark a conversation and spread some sustainable love! 

Concept 1: Sustainability 

Let’s kick this Sustainability Jargon Buster off with the concept of sustainability itself. Did you know there isn’t a definition of sustainability that we actually, universally agreed upon? Yep. 

“Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.” – Oxford Dictionary

“The idea that goods and services should be produced in ways that do not use resources that cannot be replaced and that do no damage to the environment.” – Cambridge Dictionary

The word sustainability is simply a combination of “to sustain” + “ability”. As such, it literally is, the ‘ability to sustain’, or the ability to hold up, to continue doing without failure. So the question is, what is it that we are hoping to hold up? 

In 1987, the UN Brundtland committee published “Our Common Future”. In this report, they coined the term ‘Sustainable Development’. 

“Meeting humanity’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. 

It’s this definition that is most commonly used and known to describe sustainability.  

Around the world, we’ve come to use the words sustainable & sustainability to describe processes or actions that will help us achieve and maintain a good quality of life for all humans now and in the future, protect our natural environment and avoid depletion of natural resources. 

The goal of the sustainable transition is to build inclusive, healthy communities, systems and organizations that function well within the boundaries of our one Planet Earth, and that allow all life forms to flourish.

That still leaves room for different viewpoints on the concept of sustainability, what these processes and actions should be, and who should do what to build these future-proof sustainable societies. 

But when you peel it all down, sustainability isn’t so complex at all. We live on a finite planet, with finite resources. And yet we have been acting as though we can grow infinitely. That’s not only unsustainable, it’s simply impossible. 

So for us, sustainability is all about looking at how we might live and operate in harmony with the natural world around us. 

That also means to go beyond ‘doing less harm’ and more towards ‘doing good’, and become a regenerative part of the ecosystem we are all part of. 

But enough for now. We’re getting ahead of ourselves here! We’ll dive deeper into regeneration and restoring earth systems on another Friday. 

Keep up the Green Sprint.

Minou & Pamela


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