Sustainability refers to the optimal employment of existing resources so that future
generations are able to meet their own needs.
In a business context, it involves using assets efficiently so that the business continues to
At the domestic level, physical sustainability means having adequate supplies of
food, water, and fuel and adequate security, particularly when these are not available
via regular sources.
In Information Technology (IT), sustainability implies the need for people who speak
different languages to be able to use the same application, and the need to protect the
system from external assault and user error.
Sustainability therefore implies a need for protection from both mismanagement and
assault. The word is in popular use today because of environmental mismanagement
and the fact that resultant global warming is demonstrably putting invaluable natural
features, like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, at risk.
Sustainability can and should be part of any plan, particularly as there is so much
information available to help gauge and counteract risks.
People in the United States’ infamous “Tornado Alley” habitually build storm shelters
under or near their houses. People in Australia’s bush-fire prone areas are currently
required to use non-flammable materials in the construction of new dwellings and to
install sprinklers on the outside to keep the structures wet. Most organisations with
enterprise IT systems place great importance on security from hackers, viruses,
worms, and the like. Ultimately, sustainability is like insurance. Someone has to
decide what the risk is and how much insuring against the risk is worth.
Insurance companies and others employ risk assessors to quantify particular risks
before they issue policies. It makes sense to quantify the environmental costs and
benefits of a proposed project.
Fire walls, anti-virus applications and other tools are widely used to protect computer
systems from outside intervention. Sustainability in this area means using good tools
and keeping them up to date.
Sustainability is important because all the choices that we make and all the actions
that we take will affect what happens in the future.
“Sustainable” was best defined in March 1987 by the Brundtland Commission of
the United Nations:
“sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”