A term meaning something is able to be maintained indefinitely. Also a term that is easy to understand and has obvious and endless practical applications despite being challenging to define in each context. This characteristic means that it can be attached to almost anything, at which point it begins the process of becoming common, misused and abused. Soon enough it enters the popular list of buzz words used in Public Relations and marketing. Here it is finally stripped of any meaningful public definition, appearing in endless glossy brochures for any product, development or business plan. Thereafter using the term appropriately will be viewed with the suspicion that the author is practicing Public Relations. Ironically, once ‘sustainability’ is finally rendered useless as a buzz word by the PR industry it can again become a useful concept informing public discourse and practical applications as they struggle to determine what it actually means and how to achieve it. A further irony is that most businesses using sustainability as a PR buzzword would materially benefit from exploring and applying the concept.
In Australian politics, the conservative right is likely to view any serious use of the term ‘sustainable’ as a sign you might be a lefty – unless you are from the farming sector. Meanwhile, the left is likely to view any attempts by capitalists to actually apply sustainability to projects as PR and inherently paradoxical.
Peter O’Reilly ©