People have complained about the inflationary use of the word Sustainability for years. Advertising Age has ranked it in their “Jargoniest Jargon” list of the year 2010. Yet, at 8Plastics Plus we decided to use it all over the shop. Why?
We think it’s a great word with an inclusive meaning that other words such as resilience or environmental awareness do not provide. We like the Brundlandt Commission’s definition of sustainability best: meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. For us, this includes the acknowledgement that resources are finite, that we have a duty to support life on earth in all its forms and that there are individual rights and community responsibilities.
Unfortunately, it is this inclusiveness or, say, vagueness which invites its use in too many contexts. The problem seems to lie with the for-profit sector where marketing people have clocked on that prefixing the word sustainable to a product makes the consumer feel all fuzzy and good inside – and more willing to buy. Using sustainability to refer to bank accounts, shoes or to tokenistic environmental efforts of large multi-national corporations has eroded its meaning.
The trouble is that if people who really believe in sustainability move on from using it, the word loses further meaning and we lack a concept that describes what we are passionate about. Even if we move on to a new word, there is no guarantee that it will only be used in a context that we like. So, our message is: Reclaim it! Use the word sustainability in meaningful ways to balance out all the empty messages that we are bombarded with. Make sure to define it so that people know what sustainability means to you and then start winning over the world for your cause.
Go on, spread the word, future generations need you!