The Meaning of Sustainability as Perceived by Consumers
A pending study reveals that the meaning of the word "Sustainability" is perceived differently by mainstream consumers compared to experts and practitioners.
As argued by Fitzgerald (2014), "… the words they [mainstream US consumers] chose are environmental words such as "environmentally friendly", "natural", "organic," "green", "recycle" and "renewable" as most similar to "sustainability". The key characteristics of sustainability, i.e.: ethical, trust, collaboration, community, etc., had a lower ranking in their perceived relationship to sustainability, unlike the meaning which professionals assign to it
I think we would agree here that sustainability is far more than that, something like 'an activity, which can be continued indefinitely - without exhausting resources or destroying its own basis'.
How can we as its advocates improve the communication of its definition to the masses? Is better "marketing" needed to get the full meaning of sustainability across? Who could take care of that? Or do we need a new term? Or are we placing too much emphasis on the "S" term and should we encourage the spirit of the thought?
When professionals continue debating and neglect to take a coordinated action towards proper understanding, we might risk the hijacking of the "S" definition, potentially loosing momentum shifting this paradigm.
Kho, J., Guardian Sustainable Business, 3rd of February 2014, Open thread: What does 'sustainable' mean to you?
DuFault, A., Kho, J., Guardian Sustainable Business, 18th of October 2013, Sustainability: Is it a dirty word?