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Response: More Nuances

Editor’s note: The following is a response to Matt Ellis’s article, “ESG vs. Sustainability: What’s the Difference?” It has been reprinted here for public discussion with the author’s permission.


Good blog on Sustainability v ESG, but I respectfully disagree.  An important and too little-observed piece of common sense is that “sustainability,” like “development” is a word that requires a qualifier to describe a specific function.  For example, Sustainable Development, Economic Development, and Business Development are three very different items.  As are: Corporate Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability and Sustainable Development for that matter.

Corporate Sustainability – as defined by the DJSI in 1999 after years of multi-stakeholder involvement – is all about enterprise sustainability in a socially and environmentally changing world.  In a practical sense, the phrase Corporate Sustainability is an implicit acknowledgment that the context has changed in a global economy recognized as manifestly unsustainable in its current form.  The power of the term is related to the fact it is the fiduciary obligation of each individual Director and the Board as a whole.  Strength in ESG helps advance Corporate Sustainability because ESG metrics will help uncover the changing context which challenges all firms – especially global firms.


Jim Boyle
CEO & Chairman
Sustainability Roundtable, Inc.