True eco-literacy requires an extensive vocabulary. If you’re looking to create a more sustainable business, here are a few key green and sustainable business terms to get you started:
Carbon Footprint – The total amount of carbon dioxide produced by a person, organization, location or product as an expression of its impact on rising levels of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere.
Carbon Offsetting – Financial contributions made with the intention of “offsetting” one’s carbon footprint by investing in clean technology, or contributing toward efforts like reforestation that combat greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate Change – A long-term shift in weather patterns. This can include global warming – or the rise in the average temperature of the earth – but may also include changes in precipitation, cloud cover and other elements of weather. The effects of climate change range from extreme storm systems to melting glaciers and polar ice, rising sea levels and rapidly changing ecosystems. Impacts are local and global in scale.
Cradle to Cradle – A way of imagining, designing and creating products that accounts for all aspects of their development, production, use and disposal with the goal of sustainability and being reused, recycled or composted rather than thrown into landfills.
Eco-Label – A labeling system that indicates a product’s compliance with a set of (often voluntary) standards. Examples include the Marine Stewardship Council for sustainable fish products or Fairtrade International certification for food products and coffee.
Ethical Consumerism – Adding a social responsibility component to one’s purchasing decisions. Considerations may include environmental responsibility, fair trade or labor practices, or any social impacts a consumer deems ethically important.
Greenwash – The act of presenting a company, product or organization as environmentally friendly without creating the systems, processes, policies and standards that make a business sustainable.
LEED – The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green-building rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, provides certification standards for environmentally sustainable construction. LEED certification takes into account responsible materials sourcing, energy and water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions, recycling practices, indoor air quality and a host of sustainability factors.
Sustainability – According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.”
Triple Bottom Line – A measurement of business success that incorporates three P’s – people, planet and profits – into the way a company evaluates its health and accomplishments, promoting the idea that financial success without environmental and ethical excellence is not sufficient.
Did we miss any sustainable business term? How will your business become more green in 2014?