Global Bright Futures have created this Glossary Guide of Sustainable Business Definitions for the most widely used terms in sustainability and for sustainable business. This list is compiled from the terms that are the most used words or phrases that we are most often asked about. We know that not everyone in business has come across many of these terms, so we have listed from A-Z so you can quickly find the word that you want to know the meaning of. If any other phrases of terms that you would like to understand more about, then please do get in touch and ask us, as we find that this list is always evolving and would love to know what words you would like to be included in the list.
Bio-Diversity – The variety of life in plants, species and ecosystems found on Earth.
Carbon Capture – Ability to trap emissions of carbon dioxide at the source, and moving it into a storage location, usually far underground, to prevent emissions into the atmosphere.
Carbon Footprint – Is an estimated measurement of the amount of carbon dioxide that is produced annually and emitted into the atmosphere by the direct and indirect actions of individuals, households, buildings, companies, cities, communities or countries.
Carbon Offsetting – Ability to participate in the process or compensation programmes that are designed to make equivalent reductions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that have arisen out of your own or other industrial or human activity. An individual, company, country or other can reduce or offset its own carbon emissions by providing funding or payment for other activities that improve the environment.
Carbon Sequestration – The process that allows atmospheric carbon dioxide to be captured and held in long term storage to slow the build-up of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and therefore help mitigate the effects of global warming.
Child Labour – The exploitation of children to engage in economic activity, on a part-time or full-time basis, and which deprives children of their childhood development.
Circular Economy – Creating a system of production for goods that is designed and developed to reduce waste and regenerate the use of the resources used in production, which are then able to be recycled and used to produce another product. (Sometimes referred to as Circularity of production).
Climate Change – A significant change in measurements (such a temperature, precipitation), relating to the climate which has occurred for an extended period.
Climate Crisis –The prevailing long-term weather conditions relevant to continents and oceans, and a situation that raises public awareness on environmental matters such as climate change and global warming.
Climate Emergency – An urgent situation, which may have been declared by a local authority or government in some cases, to take action to halt the damage caused to the environment by climate change.
Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) – The World Bank definition is ‘an integrated approach to managing landscapes, cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries–that address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change’. (CSA) describes agricultural practises aimed at adapting to Climate Change, mitigating the impact of agriculture on climate whilst maintaining and increasing productivity, and by integrating economic, social and environmental aspects in the development of agriculture in a sustainable way.
Closed Loop Recycling – Collecting and capturing the components of products and putting them back into the production process to produce further goods.
Complete Capital Accounting (CCA) – System for everything to be included within a set of calculations that a business requires and generates within the whole of their direct and indirect business activities, of which the costs and benefits are not normally captured within a traditional Profit and Loss account system.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – Company role or business model that helps a company have specific focus on the impact they have on society – environmental, social and economic. CSR within a company allows the company to focus on all the operations within its business that enhance environmental and societal benefits and their impacts, rather than having a negative impact to them.
CO2 Emissions – When carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are released into the atmosphere as a product or by-product of an action or process. CO2 emissions, also referred to as carbon emissions when referring to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming and the greenhouse effect. CO2 emissions are produced by both animals and plants as part of the respiratory cycle. The increase of the burning of fossil fuels at scale since the industrial revolution has had a direct effect on increasing the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which has increased global warming of the Earth’s temperature.
Direct/1st Tier Suppliers – The supplier of goods or services that are directly provided to an organisation.
Eco-Friendly – (Also environmentally friendly, environment-friendly or green) are all marketing terms that refer to products, services and policies that claim to have been designed and /or produced to do the least possible damage to the environment and ecosystems.
Eco Labels – Several ‘Eco-labels’ are consumer facing on products or services and they exist to help consumers consider environmental concerns when shopping for products of services. These are often focussed on a set of specific criteria which has been set out by the specific label, and usually have gone through a verification or certification process that can show that the product or service complies with these criteria. (See also EU Eco Label).
Ecological Footprint – Measurement of human demand on nature and the quantity of nature it takes to support people and the economy.
Energy Efficiency – Reduction in the amount of energy required to provide products and services.
Environmental Justice – The fair treatment of all humanity irrespective of race, colour, income, place of origin, in connection with observing environmental regulations, laws and policies.
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
ESOS-The Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme – Mandatory UK Government Scheme to increase the awareness of energy consumption for organisations, who then act by reducing energy usage which will lower their energy bills and can contribute to lower carbon emissions in the UK.
Ethical Trade – Suggests that we can have confidence that the products or services that we buy have been produced in global supply chains by workers that have been respected for all their working rights. International labour rights such as working conditions, labour rights, working hours and conditions, freedom of association, fair and correct wages.
EU ECO Label – The Eco label was introduced by the European Union in 1992 to provide a label of environmental excellence. It was created to be awarded to products and services that meet high environmental standards throughout their life with specific criteria and guidelines to help companies meet the requirements of this label.
Gender Equality – Equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of sex.
Global Warming – An increase in the average temperature in the atmosphere and The Earth’s surface, and which can contribute to the changes in global climate patterns.
Greenwashing – Created around the word ‘Whitewashing’, which suggests a conscious form of marketing, PR or ‘spin’ that is creatively or deceptively used to create the perception that an organisations products or services are environmentally friendly or produced more sustainably.
Indirect / 2nd, 3rd, 4th… Tier Suppliers – The supplier of goods or services that are indirectly provided to an organisation through another supplier of intermediary within their chain or source of supply.
Linear Economy – A traditional model of producing goods which takes new resources to make goods, which are discarded at the end of the product lifecycle. (take, make, dispose model), rather than regenerating as in a circular economy approach.
Land Erosion – The degradation of the upper layer of soil on land, which is eroded or moved from one place to another.
Modern Slavery – Is the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of children, women or men, through the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability, deception or other means for the purpose of exploitation.
Natural Capital – The stock of all the natural resources on our planet, includes natural resources, geology, soil, air, water and all living organisms
Natural Capital Accounting – Calculation of the total stocks of all-natural resources and services in each ecosystem.
Organic Farming – Growing and production of plants and animals for food and other products without using artificial chemicals
Recycling – The control of materials at disposal to allow for the reuse of their components and materials.
Regenerative Agriculture – Conservation and rehabilitation approach to farming methods focusing on soil health and topsoil preservation, protecting biodiversity & ecosystems, increasing resilience to the effects of climate change, improving water use and composting.
Soil Erosion – The degradation of the upper layer of topsoil on land.
Soil Health and Soil Quality – The balance of stable and resilient organisms contained within soil, and between these soil organisms and the environment. Having a healthy and quality soil is seen as a key part of a balanced ecosystem.
Supply Chain – A system consisting of resources, activities, organisations, people, information which moves a product or service from suppliers to customers, in an onward chain, transforming resources and components into a finished product for the end customer.
Sustainable – The practises and actions of people (& businesses) that are not causing harm, permanent damage or change that is detrimental to the environment, ecosystems, species or resources that are sourced from our planet (our natural resources), and that are capable of being sustained for future generations to meet their own needs.
Sustainability – Meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability includes three main pillars: environmental, social and economic, often also referred to as planet, people and profit.
Sustainable Agriculture – Farming using more sustainable methods to meet the food and textile needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, promoting farming practises that are profitable (economic profit), beneficial to the environment (environmental stewardship) and communities (socially responsible).
Sustainable Development – The UN definition is “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) –The SDG’s are The UN Blueprint ‘to achieve a better and more sustainable future’. These 17 goals target specific areas around sustainable development with the aim that these each of need to be achieved by 2030. The goals have been identified to address the specific global challenges facing us.
Sustainability Strategy – A structure within an organisation which forms a key part of their overall business strategy, and that is developed to focus on the sustainability actions to be implemented within the organisation with the overall aim to create long term stakeholder value.
Traceability – Verifiable. The ability to be traced and verified (as in along a supply or value chain or at various points within it).
Transparency – In a sustainability context means that more and better information, visibility and openness is provided around actions taken by an organisation. (For example, Supply chain Transparency would provide information related to supply chains to be more open and accessible to others).
Value Chain – Refers to the supply chain system of activities and which is adding value to the product or service from suppliers to customer in this onward chain.
Waste – Unwanted, unusable, discarded materials or resources that are disposed of after their primary use.
Water Footprint – Calculation made of the amount of water that is used both direct and indirect in production or the supply of goods and services throughout the entire production process to the end user. (A Water footprint can be further measured in more detail as Green, Blue and Grey).
Zero Carbon – No net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Zero Waste – Encouraging the redesign of resources in product life cycles so that all products are reused, with the aim that no products and discarded and sent to landfill.