94 terms

sustainability vocabulary

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6 Sigma
A quality management system pioneered by Motorola and used by many manufacturing companies. Sigma refers to a standard deviation of a set of statistics. -
AccountAbility 1000S
AccountAbility is a not-for-profit certification and research organization founded in the UK in 1995. The 1000 Series is AccounAbility's guidelines for reporting on social, environmental and ethical performance. -
Agenda 21
A program run by the United Nations (UN) related to sustainable development and the planet's first summit to discuss global warming related issues. It is a comprehensive blueprint of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the UN, governments, and major groups in every area in which humans directly affect the environment. -
Biodiesel
A clean-burning, renewable alternative to standard diesel fuel. Biodiesel has become America's fastest growing alternative fuel (according to the Department of Energy).
Bottom of the Pyramid
A term developed by Stuart Hart and C. K. Prahalad referring to the poorest people in the world. Contrary to most expectations, because of their numbers, they still represent a huge market if affordable products and services can be offered to them. -
Brundtland Commission definition of Sustainability
Convened by the UN in 1983 to address concerns about deterioration of the environment, the Commission declared, "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." -
CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy ) standards
The fuel standards for passenger cars and light trucks were established as part of the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA) enacted in 1975. The Act was passed in response to the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. -
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
A business outlook that acknowledges responsibilities to stakeholders not traditionally accepted, including suppliers, customers, and employees as well as local and international communities in which it operates and the natural environment. -
Cap and Trade
Cap and trade is an environmental policy tool that delivers results with a mandatory cap on emissions while providing sources flexibility in how they comply. See carbon trading. -
Carbon Disclosure Project
An initiative by leading institutional investors (with assets of $10T) to research and rate global companies based on their risks due to climate change. -
Carbon Footprint
The total amount of greenhouse gases emitted directly and indirectly to support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of either carbon or carbon dioxide. -
Carbon Neutral
Refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. -
Carbon Offsets
A reduction in emissions of carbon or greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere -
Carbon Sequestration
The process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in subsurface saline aquifers, reservoirs, ocean water, aging oil fields, or other carbon sinks. -
Carbon Trading
Any trading system designed to offset carbon emissions from one activity (such as burning fossil fuels in manufacturing, driving, or flying) with another (such as installing more efficient technologies or planting carbon-reducing plants) -
Ceres Principles
A ten-point code of environmental conduct that is publicly and voluntarily endorsed by companies as an environmental mission statement or ethic. -
Climate Neutral
The process of offsetting carbon-producing activities with those that either reduce or capture carbon, thus credibly neutralizing the net amount of carbon released in the atmosphere from a particular activity -
Closed-loop Supply Chain
Ideally, a zero-waste supply chain that completely reuses, recycles, or composts all materials. However, the term can also be used to refer to corporate take-back programs, where companies that produce a good are also responsible for its disposal. -
Cradle-to-Cradle
This framework seeks to create production techniques that are not just efficient but are essentially waste free. In cradle to cradle production all material inputs and outputs are seen either as technical or biological nutrients. Technical nutrients can be recycled or reused with no loss of quality and biological nutrients composted or consumed. -
Daly's Triangle
Daly reorders sustainability's 3Es-environment, equity, and economy- and uses a triangle to describe their relationship to each other. It emphasizes that the natural environment is the precondition for human life. -
Cogeneration
Cogeneration is the simultaneous production of electrical and thermal energy from the same fuel source. For example, surplus heat from an electric generating plant can be used for industrial processes, or space and water heating purposes. -
Dematerialization
Reducing the total material that goes toward providing benefits to customers. May be accomplished through greater efficiency, the use of better or more appropriate materials, or by creating a service that produces the same benefit as a product. -
Design for Environment
Design for Environment (DfE) is a process used in many industries to help organizations improve the environmental impact of their products and services throughout the development process. -
Dow Jones Sustainability Index
Created in 1999, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index is one of the first global indexes watching the financial performance leading companies with an emphasis on sustainability in economic, social, and environmental capacities. -
Downcycle
Most recycled industrial nutrients (materials) lose viability or value in the process of recycling. This "downcycling" means they can only be used in a degraded form for components other than their original use. -
Earth Charter
A UN declaration of fundamental values and principles considered useful by its supporters for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century
E-waste
Waste materials generated from using or discarding electronic devices (such as computers, televisions, and mobile phones). E-waste tends to be highly toxic.
Eco-efficiency
Coined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in its 1992 publication "Changing Course". It is based on the concept of creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste and pollution. -
Ecological Design
Defined by Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan as "any form of design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes." The term helps connect scattered efforts in green architecture, sustainable agriculture, ecological engineering, ecological restoration and other fields. -
Ecological Economics
An interdisciplinary framework that seeks to merge the two historically separate fields of economics and ecology. It assumes that the economy is a subsystem of the earth's ecological system. -
ESG (Environment, Social, Governance)
Describes the three main areas of concern that have developed as the central factors in measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a company or business. -
Environmental Accounting
An emerging field that aims to rebalance the treatment of environmental costs and benefits in traditional accounting practice. Separate environmentally-related costs and revenues are identified and new forms of valuation are created which encourage better management decisions and an increased investment in environmental protection and improvement. -
Environmental Management Equator Principles
Developed in 2002 by a group of banks, these guidelines are a framework for addressing environmental and social risks in project financing. The purpose of the principles is to screen projects for adverse environmental or human affects in order to safeguard communities and natural habitats. -
Fiduciary Responsibility
The moral, and sometimes legal, responsibility one party has to another in relationship to specific duties, such as those held by investment advisors or trustees. -
GHG Protocol
The most widely used international accounting tool for government and business leaders to understand, quantify, and manage greenhouse gas emissions. -
GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator)
An indicator developed to correct acknowledged deficiencies in the GDP that don't account for all costs or benefits of human activities. It is an attempt to provide a more accurate (quality of life) indicator for people than the GDP does for governments and corporations. -
GRI (Global Reporting Initiative)
An organization that has pioneered the development of the world's most widely used sustainability reporting framework, the Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, which allow companies, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations to report on the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of their activities, products and services -
Green Building
A comprehensive process of design and construction that employs techniques to minimize adverse environmental impacts and reduce the energy consumption of a building, while contributing to the health and productivity of its occupants. -
Green-collar Jobs
Jobs created by investments and sustainable practices. -
Greenwashing
A term merging the concepts of "green" (environmentally sound) and "whitewashing" (to conceal or gloss over wrongdoing). Greenwashing is any form of marketing or public relations that links a corporate, political, religious or nonprofit organization to a positive association with environmental issues for an unsustainable product, service, or practice. -
Gross National Happiness (GNH)
A measure of the actual well-being of a country's citizens rather than consumption, accounting more fully for social, human and environmental realities. Its premise is that basic happiness can be measured since it pertains to quality of nutrition, housing, education, health care and community life. -
The Global Sullivan Principles (GSP)
A corporate code of conduct designed to increase the active participation of corporations in the advancement of human rights and social justice at the international level. -
IRR (Internal Rate of Return)
Used in capital budgeting to measure and compare the profitability of investments, IRR is also called the discounted cash flow rate of return (DCFROR) or simply the rate of return (ROR). -
ISO 14000
This series of standards represents environmental management standards, created by the International Organization for Standardization -
ISO 19011
This series represents environmental management and auditing standards, many of which supercede ISO 14000 standards. -
ISO 26000
This series of standards provides guidelines on social responsibility (SR) for private and public sector organizations. -
Industrial Ecology
A field of study and practice that focuses on how industry can be developed or restructured to reduce environmental burdens throughout the product life cycle. -
Kyoto Protocol
An agreement developed by and for industrial nations in 1997 at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Kyoto, Japan, to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. -
Lean Manufacturing
A production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. It is often associated with reductions in inventory and transportation of manufacturing materials. -
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)® Rating
A registered system of rating existing and new buildings, interiors, and other components based on environmental effectiveness. -
LOHAS (Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability)
A term used to describe the market and lifestyle of consumers interested in issues of health, wellness, ecology, sustainability, and the environment. -
Life Cycle Analysis/Assessment (LCA)
An examination, like an audit, of the total impact of a product or service's manufacturing, use, and disposal in terms of material and energy. -
Millennium Development Goals
A set of eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development -
NGO (Non-Governmental Organization)
A non-profit group or organization that is run neither by business or government created to realize particular social or economic pursuits. -
Natural Capitalism
Concept developed by Amory and Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken criticizing industrial capitalism for not accounting for anything beyond money and goods. Natural Capitalism extends traditional capitalism by adding natural capital (the Earth's resources) and human capital as things that must be accounted for. -
Natural Step™
A trademarked, science-based framework to help organizations and communities understand and become more sustainable. -
Net Metering
An electricity policy for consumers who own (generally small) renewable energy facilities (such as wind, solar power or home fuel cells) allowing them to receive a credit for at least a portion of the electricity they generate. -
Organic
In regards to food (both plant and animal) and other agricultural products (such as cotton), a term describing the absence of pesticides, hormones, synthetic fertilizers and other toxic materials in cultivation. -
Payback Period
An accounting term indicating the time required to recoup an investment. -
Peak Oil
The point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. -
Permaculture
A contraction of "permanent agriculture," it is an approach to developing ecological human habitats and food production systems focused not on the separate elements of climate, plants, animals, soils, and water use, but on their relationships and how they are placed in the landscape. -
Precautionary Principle
An approach to determining whether a given process or policy should be pursued or continued based on an analysis of the social, economic, or environmental risks associated with that activity. -
Product Stewardship
A concept whereby environmental protection centers around the product itself, and everyone involved in the lifespan of the product is called upon to take up responsibility to reduce its environmental impact. -
ROI (Return on Investment)
The profit or loss expected or resulting from an investment. Can also include the costs and benefits associated with human and natural capital. -
REACH
Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is a European Union Regulation addressing the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment. -
Remanufacturing
The process of cleaning and repairing used products and parts to be used again for replacements. -
Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)
Tradable, non-tangible energy commodities that represent proof that a quantity of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource. -
Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS)
A regulation that requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources, generally by placing an obligation on electricity supply companies to produce a specified fraction of their electricity from renewable energy sources. -
RoHS Directive
The Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive is EU legislation that bans the sale of electrical and electronic products containing specific toxic contaminants. -
SROI (Social Return on Investment)
An attempt to monetize social value in order to help investors assess potential investments based on returns outside of traditional financial measures. -
Sarbanes-Oxley
A U. S. federal law enacted in 2002, which set new or enhanced standards for all U.S. public company boards, management and public accounting firms. -
Shareholder Activism
The process of dialogue with company executives and filing shareholder resolutions generates investor pressure on corporate executives, garners media attention, and educates the public on often-ignored social, environmental, and labor issues. -
Social Accountability 8000
A workplace standard and verification system, created by the human rights organization Social Accountability International (SAI), for assuring just and decent working conditions throughout a supply chain. -
Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
Making investments with an eye towards social, environmental and financial returns. -
Stakeholders
Individuals or organizations with an interest in the success or failure of a project or entity. -
Sunk Costs
Used in business decision-making, costs which have already been incurred and which cannot be recovered to any significant degree and, thus, should be ignored. -
Take-back
A "producer responsibility" approach to facilitating reuse or recycling whereby consumers return used products back to the company that produced them. -
Tax-shifting
The objective behind tax shifting is to stop taxing the things we do want (like income and savings) and shift towards taxing things people collectively do not want (like waste and pollution). -
Tipping Point
As described by Malcolm Gladwell, the "tipping point" is the moment in an epidemic when a virus, idea or social movement reaches "critical mass." -
Triple Bottom Line
An addition of social and environmental values to the traditional economic measures of a corporation or organization's success. -
UN Global Compact
An initiative encouraging businesses to support ten fundamental principles in the area of human rights, labor standards, the environment and anti-corruption -
World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
A CEO-led, global association of some 200 international companies that provides a platform for companies to explore sustainable development, share knowledge, experiences and best practices, and to advocate business positions on these issues. -
Zero Waste
The goal of developing products and services, managing their use and deployment, and creating recycling systems and markets in order to eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials and conserve and recover all resources. - - -
Balanced Scorecard
A process introduced by Robert S. Kaplan and David Norton in 1992 designed to give managers tools for measuring the performance of a business from a: • Financial perspective, • Customer perspective, • Business process perspective, and a • Learning and growth perspective
Basic Browns
A selection of consumers defined by the Roper ASW Green Gauge Report as the least interested in "green" or environmental issues.
Best Practices
A set of learned practices and procedures an organization finds successful in accomplishing its goals. Best practices are most successful when clearly described or codified, part of employee training, and shared throughout an organization. -
Bio-based Material
"Bio" is Greek for life. Bio-based material refers to a products main constituent consisting of a substance, or substances, originally derived from living organisms. These substances may be natural or synthesized organic compounds that exist in nature.
Fair Trade (Fairtrade)
A system of trade in which workers receive living wages and employment opportunities for the goods they produce. This system serves as an alternative approach to conventional international trade for producers who are typically economically disadvantaged artisans and farmers from developing countries. -
Biodiversity
The biological diversity of life on Earth. As human influence spreads, there is concern over the reduction of the total number of species and its effect on economics, medicine, and the ability of ecosystems to remain viable.
Biofuel
Biofuel is any fuel derived from an organic material that is not fossilized like coal or petroleum. Common sources of biofuel grown for the U.S and European markets are corn, soybeans, flaxseed and rapeseed.
Biomass
Organic, non-fossil material that is available on a renewable basis. Biomass includes all biological organisms, dead or alive, and their metabolic by-products that have not been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum. -
Biomimicry
Applying lessons learned from the study of natural methods and systems to the design of technology.
Bootstrapping
A term derived from a German legend about Baron Münchhausen who pulled himself from a swamp by his own shoelaces or bootstraps. It refers to starting a business with limited capital and growing it based primarily on internally-generated profit instead of external investment.
Eco-Labels
Any label that attempts to certify or distinguish a product or service in terms of environmental issues. The ISO 14021-14025 standards outline categories of eco-labels.