Sustainability and climate change mitigation

Resources are becoming scarcer, wages for workers in distant countries are low, and the Earth is warming due to climate change. To counter these developments, people are paying an increasing amount of attention to the topic of sustainability. Sustainability has been a significant trend in people's personal lives, and also in many companies, for quite some time.

But what exactly does the term "sustainability" mean? What goals, strategies, and challenges does it entail? Learn about the essentials of sustainability and climate change mitigation here, and find out what you can do to live a more sustainable life and help protect the environment.

What is sustainability?

The term "sustainability" does not have a clear definition. Generally, it means that people consider future generations in their actions and in their consumption of raw materials. This entails using only as many raw materials as can be regrown or reproduced, which protects the environment, prevents raw material deficits and ensures intergenerational justice.

The ongoing challenge is that many current practices and products are not sustainable. Due to the use of harmful chemicals and environmentally damaging CO2 emissions in manufacturing and the proliferation of plastic and single-use items, these practices have detrimental effects on wildlife and plant life. Added to this is the fact that poorly-paid agricultural workers, often including children, produce cheap products. Also, many people prefer the convenience and cost savings of non-sustainable products or drive short distances as part of their daily routines. Yet there are plenty of alternatives that are not only more sustainable but almost as convenient as their environmentally damaging counterparts.

The three pillars of sustainability

The three pillars of sustainability, Environment, Economy, and Social, define what the concept of sustainability is based on and what constitutes it. These three components are equally important and interdependent.

✔ The environmental pillar calls for conserving the earth's resources, such as water and raw materials, and ensuring that these resources are available or replaced by renewable raw materials. For example, plastic should be replaced with more sustainable materials, as it decomposes very slowly, if at all.

✔ The second pillar is social sustainability, which states that human dignity is inviolable and that exploitation contradicts the principle of sustainability. This principle can be achieved through fair wages and the enforcement of fundamental rights.

✔ The third pillar focuses on economic sustainability. This pillar urges companies to adopt lasting sustainability strategies that don't merely focus on profit but also avoid harming the environment. In addition, there should be balanced trade between importing and exporting countries to reduce the effects of debt.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • No poverty and zero hunger
  • Quality education
  • Reduced inequalities
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Gender equality and empowerment
  • Good health and well-being

  • Climate action and preservation of life below water and on land
  • Protection of human rights
  • Peace and global partnerships
  • Sustainable energy and production strategies
  • Infrastructure development
You can find an overview of all 17 goals of the United Nations here (pdf, 715 KB)


Many people around the world are not yet living sustainably and are failing to adopt environmentally conscious practices and products. This reluctance often comes from a lack of understanding of the topic since it's considered to be highly complex. Most people do not appreciate the full impact of buying plastic packaging and single-use products on the environment. For this reason, it is vital to promote education beyond the classroom in order to raise environmental awareness and highlight the importance of personal lifestyle choices.

On the other hand, many people are very aware of the consequences and importance of their actions in this area. Yet this awareness doesn't always translate into action. This inaction might stem from simple convenience or the higher price tag on sustainable alternatives.

The challenge, then, is to not only raise awareness of sustainability but also to promote subsequent action. The three pillars of sustainability provide a solid foundation for enabling a sustainable life on Earth. This involves managing resources, protecting workers, and managing companies based on a new sustainability strategy.

Sustainability strengthens climate change mitigation

Fahrradfahrer im Straßenverkehr

Sustainable living protects the climate. By opting for public transport instead of a car, one single person can save a significant amount of CO2. Moreover, public transport like buses and trains can move many more people at once.

Minimalism also plays a part in climate change mitigation. By consuming less and doing more yourself, you can contribute to positive change and reduce your environmental footprint.

Sustainable insulation ensures that your home is warm and cosy while you use less heat. This cuts down on heating expenses and has a positive impact on the climate by minimizing wasted energy.

Investing in new appliances with high energy efficiency ratings will prevent your electricity bill from spiralling, as they typically consume less power.

Sustainability in everyday life

Living your everyday life sustainably can be as simple as paying attention to a few key areas. Shopping for regional and seasonal products is a climate-friendly and sustainable choice, since locally sourced fruits and vegetables have a smaller carbon footprint than those imported from overseas. Aim to buy these items without packaging, especially plastic, since plastic bags can take more than 20 years to break down. Plastic bottles take even longer. Cutting back on or even abstaining from meat and dairy products is another way to benefit the climate.

If you're frequently on the move, bicycles, trains and buses are more sustainable alternatives to cars and planes. Biking not only helps you stay in shape but also cuts down on harmful emissions. And bicycle repairs are relatively quick and easy. You can either repair the bike yourself or at a shop, so there's no need to buy a new one.

Electrical appliances should be unplugged or switched off when not in use. Look for energy-efficient options when you buy new appliances to reduce both your power consumption and your costs. Many appliances also have a power-saving mode. And don't forget to turn off the lights when you leave a room!

Sustainability in companies

The concept of sustainability isn't confined to everyday life; it also extends into the world of work. At work, you can save resources by limiting paper use and using black-and-white print mode. Office devices should ideally not be left in stand-by mode to save energy, and in general, laptops are more energy-efficient than large desktop PCs. Plants in the office not only enhance the aesthetics of a workspace but also contribute to an optimal indoor climate.

A company can also be considered sustainable if it promotes sustainability through new business models or sustainability strategies. Many companies call themselves sustainable because they manufacture sustainable products, though other aspects of their operations may not be sustainable. Thus, companies that are labelled sustainable are not necessarily sustainable in all areas.

Sustainability – Company strategies
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