Sustainability Leadership

Leadership that addresses the concept of sustainability in regards to the Triple Bottom Line (TBL).

The TBL is a framework originally developed by John Elkington in the 1990s as a “business approach that creates long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risks deriving from economic, environmental, and social developments” (Corporate Sustainability, n.d., para. 1). Seeing the applicability of the TBL to framing the concept of sustainability, many within higher education adopted the TBL approach (Hammer, 2015; Miller, 2015; Peralta Alvarez, Barcena & Gonzalez, 2016; Stenzel, 2010). 

The modern concept of sustainability originated in 1987 by the World Commission of Environment and Development (WCED), a group comprised of experts formed by the United Nations (UN) in 1983. The WCED is often credited for renewing the call for sustainable development (Basiago, 1999), meaning “a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development; and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations” (World Commission on Environment and Development,1987, p. 43). 

The idea of sustainability re-emerged with a broader definition than simply caring for the environment and conserving natural resources, essentially becoming an umbrella philosophy encompassing the economy, social life, culture, politics, and social order through educational awareness and the ability to effectively manage and plan for sustainable change (McFarlane & Ogazon, 2011, p. 82).

  • Basiago, A.D. (1999). Economic, social, and environmental sustainability in development theory and urban planning practice. The Environmentalist19, 145-161.
  • Hammer, J. (2015). When three equals one. Economic Development Journal14(3), 5-10.
  • McFarlane, D. A., & Ogazon, A. G. (2011). The challenges of sustainability education. Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 3(3), 81-107.
  • Miller, R. T. (2015). Our Triple Bottom Line. Library Journal140(17), 8.
  • Peralta Álvarez, M. E., Bärcena, M. M., & González, F. A. (2016). A review of sustainable machining engineering: Optimization process through triple bottom line. Journal of Manufacturing Science & Engineering138(10), 1-16.
  • Stenzel, P.L. (2010). Sustainability, the triple bottom line, and the global reporting initiative. globaEDGE Business Review,4(6), 1-2.
  • World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our common future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Oxford, UK: Oxford University.

Excerpts from Dr. Renee Harmon’s dissertation manuscript.

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