Sustainability (the word) is suffering from chronic overuse. I propose we stop using the word sustainability and instead actually say what we mean. I’m by no means the first person to suggest this. James Evison, aka The Foreman at Contract Journal said the same thing last month.Â Don’t get me wrong.Â I’m not advocating cynicism or denial here, I’m saying that the word has ceased to be meaningful.
A quick search through my Google Reader feeds gives a search result of thousands of hits for the word.Â Narrowing the search down to ‘definition sustainability’ yields 51 hits.Â Clearly, no-one can hold 51 different models in their head at one time, so ‘sustainability’ has become a kind of shorthand for multitudinous ideas, theories and beliefs.
I’m proposing using insteadÂ ’legacy’ and ‘dynasty’ i.e.: the concept that what we do today has an impact on the future.Â Legacy covers this definition, but leaves the future open to both optimistic and pessimistic outcomes.Â Dynasty is a stronger concept, based on the idea of making sure that the generation you hand over to is better off than you are.
This is only one of the myriad of types of definition that ‘sustainability’ has become shorthand for.Â I’ll touch on others in the future, but in the meantime, if you are talking about issues to do with what state we leave the world in for the next generation, try using legacy – not sustainability.
*I must give credit to Scott Berkun and his post banning the word innovation (which I also agree with) which galvanised some of my recent thoughts on sustainability