Sustainability words and terms: A glossary

Sustainability is a complex concept, and there are many different words and terms associated with it. Here is a glossary of some of the most common sustainability terms that are used across the industry to help you understand the most important topics in more detail.

  • Biodiversity:The variety of life on Earth, including all plants, animals, and microorganisms.
  • Biodegradable:Able to be broken down naturally by living organisms.
  • Carbon credits are a type of permit that represents one tonne of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions removed from the atmosphere. They can be purchased by individuals or companies to offset their own carbon footprint.
  • Carbon footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gases emitted by a person, organization, or product over a period of time.
  • Carbon Literacy: Is the knowledge and capacity required to create a positive shift in how mankind lives, works and behaves in response to climate change
  • Carbon neutral:Achieving net-zero carbon emissions, meaning that any carbon dioxide emissions are balanced out by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Circular economy:An economic system that is designed to eliminate waste and pollution, and to keep resources in use for as long as possible.
  • Climate change:Long-term changes in temperature and typical weather patterns in a place. Climate change could refer to a particular location or the planet as a whole. Climate change may cause weather patterns to be less predictable. A region might experience lower or higher than average temperatures. Climate change may cause more frequent and severe weather events, such as storms, floods, and droughts.
  • Climate resilience:The ability of a community or ecosystem to adapt to and recover from climate change.
  • Conservation:The protection and preservation of natural resources.
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR): A business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social, and environmentalbenefits for all stakeholders.
  • Ecological footprint:The total area of land and water needed to produce the resources and absorb the waste of a person, population, or organization.
  • Environmental impact:The effect that a person’s activities or a product has on the environment.
  • ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. It is a set of criteria that investors use to assess the sustainability and ethical impact of a company
  • Fair trade:A trading partnership between countries in the North and South, based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equity in global trade.
  • Green building: The practice of designing and constructing buildings that minimize their environmental impact.#
  • Greenwashing is the practice of making misleading or unsubstantiated claims about an organization’s environmental performance. It is a type of marketing fraud that can deceive consumers into believing that a product or service is more environmentally friendly than it actually is.
  • Social sustainability: Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
  • Sustainable development: Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meettheir own needs.
  • Sustainable investment: Investing in companies and projects that have a positive impact on the environment and society.
  • Waste management:The process of collecting, transporting, treating, recycling or disposing of waste.

We hope our glossary has given you a clearer understanding on some of these terms. Still unsure? Sign up on our website for regular updates to help make sustainability clearer.