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The fourth pillar of sustainability: pleasure?

Kris Karslake Kris Karslake 24 Feb 2015

The three pillars of sustainability are widely known as People, Planet and Profit. A type of systems theory, the idea is the three pillars have to all be strong for a sustainable world to become a reality. The People pillar refers to keeping societies stable, eliminating war and social injustice to create balanced societies that can invest in sustainable growth. Planet refers to the use of resources, and how we can use fewer resources more efficiently, to ensure the health and wellbeing of current and future generations. Profit relates to economic stability and profit as a catalyst for growth and innovation. All are intricately linked and vulnerable.

But maybe Pleasure is the fourth pillar that could make the other pillars more stable? During a recent webinar hosted by Ethical Corporation about 'Practical steps to make a circular economy possible', François Tasmowski, CSR & Communications Director Continental Europe at McCain Foods, reminded us that Pleasure is often forgotten, as the pillar that motivates people to value change.

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William van Niekerk, Director Corporate Social Responsibility at Royal BAM Group, supports this concept and provided some feedback from occupants of BAM's recently completed housing retrofit project. BAM set up a project to demonstrate to landlords that retrofitting existing housing stock was worth the money and effort. By retrofitting the houses, the properties became more energy efficient and saved the landlords money, offsetting the cost of the retrofit. The retrofit included better insulation, more efficient cooking equipment and the removal of gas connections in all the houses involved. The tenants of the building didn’t seem to be focused on the primary outcomes – reducing emissions and saving costs. They were however extremely satisfied that there was less noise from neighbours, the new kitchen came with brand new pans from IKEA, and the space generated from the omition of the gas meter could be used for additional storage. This goes to show we shouldn’t underestimate the intangible benefits of green buildings as a motive for change.

With people and pleasure in mind, another topic discussed was business culture and how sustainable business innovation is nurtured. François challenged the concept that innovation should have a senior level leader. He suggested that a bottom up approach of engaging with individuals who want to be actors rather than spectators can be extremely successful. Great pleasure comes from contributions being recognised. So rather than “ivory tower” initiatives being dictated from above; more rapid business innovation can be achieved through a culture where all staff points of view and ideas are listened to.

The response from the audience, to the question “Should a sustainable business innovation be a top down or a bottom up approach?” resonated with the speakers thoughts, with 87% voting ‘A bit of both’. It just goes to show everyone needs to be involved to make a difference.

Poll results during the Ethical Corporation live webinar 


So next time you think that you don’t have the status within a business to make a difference, think again. It’s the responsibility of us all to drive innovation. And gain pleasure from our achievements along the way.

Kris Karslake is a Senior Environmental Advisor at BAM.

If you would like to talk to us about our circular economy experience, contact us.



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