Explain sustainability  in 2 pages (in the context of the beginning of a thesis about sustainability and family businesses). (terminology to be included: CSR, corporate social responsibility, triple bottom line, planetary boundaries, … , SDG’s) see potential example below

2. Sustainability

Sustainability refers to practices that promote economic growth but do not degrade the environment through poor management of natural resources. Currently, a greater awareness of the need to implement sustainability practices has emerged [8] due to the growing increase in world population, living standards, and the continuous exploitation of natural resources. In recognition of the importance of sustainability, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has created policies to combat this situation [9]. An example of such practices are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the United Nations (UN) developed in 2015 [10] as part of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda consists of 17 SDGs that should be adopted by all UN member states as “the basis for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future” [11]. For these practices to be successful at an international level, they need to emerge at the local level [10].

Sustainability regards recognizing that the actions of an organization affect its external environment and the agents that act in it. Globalization and the increasing competitiveness of the markets compel companies to focus more on ethical procedures and long-term objectives [6]. Sustainability practices should reflect the meeting of current needs without compromising the ability to meet future needs [12,13]. The key objective of these practices is to acquire “welfare and social equality, reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcity” [14], the consequence of which is implementing a green economy. Over the past 10 years, the green economy has become an increasingly relevant topic that arose at the Rio + 20 conference due to several factors. The most notable factor was the restructuring of priorities at the international level due to the 2008–2009 crisis to promote sustainable development [15]. “Sustainable development” is defined as [16]: “development that meets current needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs at the moment”.

A sustainable business strategy is defined as the process of aligning the organization with the business environment in order to create a dynamic balance [17]. Thus, companies need to adopt strategies that encompass their ability to carry out such processes to maintain their competitive advantage [18]. Consequently, companies have adopted sustainability strategies based on the Triple Bottom Line standard [18]. This standard [19] serves to operationalize corporate sustainability [20] based on the 3 P’s (people, planet, and profits), that focus on economic, social, and environmental sustainability [13]. The social dimension reflects social inclusion, the people related to the company; the environmental dimension focuses on environmental protection, the company’s effect on natural resources; and the financial dimension regards the economic development, and addresses the company’s profit and revenue [21]. The standard has existed for several decades, but it has only recently received importance [22] due to the tendency, both in companies and in consumers, to adopt sustainable practices and to consume products that involve such practices [21]. Therefore, companies with a greater focus on sustainability end up having a greater competitive advantage [21]. Most firms adopt sustainable practices that require companies in their supply chain to provide information about their performance in the area of sustainability [22]. The corporate sustainability practices that lead the organization to act beyond its own financial interests and to voluntarily improve the social good of its operations and interactions with stakeholders [6] are called corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The growing interest in the application of these sustainable practices does not come only from the organization but also from its stakeholders [23]. In recent years, CSR practices have become something intrinsic to an organization’s strategy [1] because of the positive effect they have on its relationship with stakeholders, which will consequently generate more profits for the organization [6]. In the last two decades, sustainability has become increasingly important. At the business level, pressure from consumers [17] and legislation has driven a growing trend of implementing sustainability practices. This pressure has stimulated organizations to redesign their strategies to mitigate their negative effects on the environment [24]. An organization’s ability to integrate, build, and reconfigure its internal and external processes to respond to environmentally friendly practices is currently a critical success factor in addressing the need for market adaptation [17]. Currently, both large organizations and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) not only adopt these practices but also adapt their missions, visions, and objectives to sustainability [22]. Despite the current pressure from the markets, not all SMEs have a sustainable attitude [24]. Some studies estimate that SMEs are responsible for 70% of global pollution. Therefore, they could have a major effect on preventing pollution by adopting sustainability practices [25].

For the purpose of this study, we assume SMEs do not have more than 250 employees [26]. If SMEs aim to align economic, environmental, and social viability and to conserve value creation for future generations, the adoption of sustainability strategies might be the only way [17]. Firms can do so by optimizing the use of their resources, reducing waste, and promoting corporate sustainability at the economic, the environmental, and the social levels. Traditionally, only large companies have applied these waste reduction strategies. Only recently have SMEs recognized that the adoption of these practices is a solution for them [25]. As a consequence, SMEs have started to implement sustainable practices while maintaining their strategy of increasing revenues and reducing costs [8].

Environmentally friendly practices are currently a critical success factor to meet the need for market adaptation to new consumer demands on environmental protection [17], but these practices require resources that SMEs often do not have. Therefore, the transition to a sustainable strategy is not easy for SMEs. The transition has four key steps [25]: (1) align the organizational strategy with the sustainability strategy, (2) reinforce the results of synergy through constant optimization, (3) involve external and internal stakeholders to optimize the processes, and (4) share results to provide transparency. Additionally, there are some barriers to implementing sustainable practices in SMEs [17]: (a) acceleration of technological innovation, (b) rapid globalization and creation of networks, (c) long and interconnected supply chains, and (d) constantly changing markets.

The benefits for large companies and SMEs differ on a large scale [17]. Likewise, the strategy to be adopted will also not be similar in both cases, because—unlike large companies, which design very formal strategies—SMEs usually use a less formal and more flexible strategy [22]. Large companies can invest and spread their costs over a vast production network, and if something goes wrong in one market, it can be successful in another, while SMEs are mostly restricted to a single market that does not have as much room for error [17]. Because they work in small markets, many SMEs are unaware of their collective impact on the environment. They also lack the knowledge of the practices to develop a good sustainability strategy that may be beneficial to the company [22]. However, SMEs have greater strategic agility due to having a smaller organizational structure, and they can more easily adapt their structure to an environmentally friendly configuration [17]. Sustainability is such a relevant issue in contemporary business that it is also relevant for FFs. Globalization spreads along the planet common challenges that FFs face just like other organizations: social inclusion, environmental protection, and economic development.

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