Cost Benefit Analysis

Cost Benefit Analysis is a financial method of evaluating the feasibility of a project or program by systematically summing its benefits and deducting its costs. It represents an advance over traditional forms of valuation in that it includes opportunity costs, cost of externalities and costs of intangible assets. It is used in private projects as […]

Cap and Trade

Cap and Trade is a market based policy tool, which sets a cap on the amount of emissions from a group of sources with the end goal of reducing the overall pollution in a nation, region, or industry. The intention is to incentivize a reduction in emissions and penalize those who don’t comply. Participants in […]

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a carbon trading system, defined in article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol, with the objective to cut green house gas emissions. To achieve their emission-cutting obligations, developed countries invest in the installation of green technology in developing countries in return for carbon credits. In this system, developed nations can meet […]

Carbon Footprint

The total amount of greenhouse gases emitted directly and indirectly to support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of either carbon or carbon dioxide. Carbon footprints are calculated by countries as part of their reporting requirements under the Kyoto Protocol, as well as by companies, regions, or individuals. Direct greenhouse gas emissions can include […]

Community Choice Aggregation (CCA)

A new energy management model developing in California. Community Choice Aggregation permits any city, county, or joint powers authority to aggregate the electrical loads of residents, businesses, and municipal facilities for electricity purchases. An “opt-out” provision allows constituents to elect not to participate in Community Choice and to continue having their current utility provide their […]

Clarkson Principles

Developed by the Clarkson Centre for Business Ethics under the leadership of Max Clarkson, these principles represent an early stage general awareness of corporate governance concerns that have been widely discussed in connection with the business scandals of 2002. In many ways, the Clarkson Principles are “meta-principles” that encourage management to embrace specific stakeholder principles […]

Collective Intelligence

Defined by George Pór, in The Quest for Collective Intelligence (1995), as the capacity of a human community to evolve toward higher order complexity thought, problem-solving and integration through collaboration and innovation. James Surowiecki, in The Wisdom of Crowds, says “The more influence a group’s members exert on each other, and the more personal contact […]


Cogeneration is the simultaneous production of electrical and thermal energy from the same fuel source. For example, surplus heat from an electric generating plant can be used for industrial processes, or space and water heating purposes. Or, waste heat from an industrial process can be used to power an electric generator.

Clear Cutting

A process where all trees in a selected area are felled in a logging operation. Although some areas may be planted, seeded or naturally regenerated, the effect on the environment can be extremely destructive. The act of clear cutting is not only damaging to the structure and function of the forest, but in particularly erosion-prone […]

Cheater Capitalism

A term coined by Randy Hayes to describe the ability for companies to exploit economic policies that insufficiently attribute externalities. As long as these external costs are not addressed by business, the economy will, ultimately, be unsustainable.

Caux Round Table Principles

The Caux Principles were developed in 1994 by a group of international business leaders as a guide for ethical and responsible corporate behavior. These principals are meant to be a cornerstone for business leadership to raise the moral and ethical standards by which corporations and governments operate in order to promote moral capitalism so that […]

Carbon Disclosure Project

An initiative by leading institutional investors (with assets of $10T) to research and rate global companies based on their risks due to climate change. The 2003 CDP report estimated that a single carbon-intensive manufacturing company might carry as much risk (in energy prices, availability, and potential carbon taxes) equal to 40% of it’s market capitalization. […]


A legal entity that gives a business or organizaiton (or sometimes a church, town, or city) in the USA rights similar to those of an individual. Corporations limit liability for their employees and stockholders, who are protected from many of the actions or consequences of the corporation’s actions. Since corporations are granted many of the […]

Corporate Reporting

Public corporations are required (in the USA) to report specific financial measures and figures, quarterly and annually, in order to inform potential investors of the risks associated with their companies. However, some organizations (including private corporations) are beginning to report social and environmentally-related information in the form of Triple Bottom Line reports or Corporate Social […]

Corporate Citizenship

The expectation that drives companies to interact with their wider communities in an ethical and socially-responsible manner. Many companies view themselves as other than citizens of the places they do business or define business as having no social or ethical responsibilities. Increasingly, however, organizations are reconciling their corporate goals with those of their stakeholders, including […]


Compliance can be the first step to sustainability. Compliance can be achieved through a commitment to social expectations and the law or simply by observing the letter of a law. For businesses striving to achieve restorative, sustainable practices, compliance becomes not a motivation, but simply a minimum baseline against which to measure achievable cost savings […]


The ability for customers to change a product or service to better suit their needs and desires. It differs from Personalization in that Customization offers a limited set of pre-defined attributes.

Customer Experience

The entire experience a customer has with an organization’s product or service as important to the value that product, service, or brand has to the customer, as well as the relationship built between the product, service, or organization that provides it. The experience is, often, more than the features or use or the product or […]

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)

A business outlook that acknowledges responsibilities to stakeholders not traditionally accepted, including suppliers, customers, and employees as well as local and international communities in which it operates and the natural environment. There are few accepted standards and practices so far, but a growing concern that the actions organizations take have no unintended consequences outside the […]


A phrase invented by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s and popularized by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book of the same name. This framework seeks to create production techniques that are not just efficient but are essentially waste free. In cradle to cradle production all material inputs and outputs are seen […]

Core Competencies

The primary skills, abilities, and knowledge used to excel at a particular endeavor. Businesses tend to focus on their core competencies in an effort to take advantage of “what they are good at.” Often, core competencies may go unrecognized within an organization that focuses too much on their markets, products, and services and not their […]


The natural balance of healthy ecosystems in which growth is based on innovations brought about by competition and markets are made viable and stable by cooperation. Both are necessary for a healthy, growing market, industry, or economy.


The opposite of competition, cooperation is two entities working together towards a common goal. In business, there are many ways in which organizations cooperate in order to compete at more valuable and sophisticated levels. For example, many technology companies cooperate in setting and producing to standards in order to create a more viable market more […]


An individual or household that purchases and uses products and services. In sustainable management there is a trend to rethink the notion of a consumer who “uses things up” and, instead, strive to serve customers with services that meet their needs without depleting as many resources. In marketing, the trend is to speak of “customers” […]


The ability of a company to attract customers over other solution providers.

Competitive Advantage

The ability one organization has to outperform others in producing products and services of higher quality, lower price, or of greater value for customers. To be a truly effective the advantage must be: • Difficult to mimic • Unique • Sustainable • Superior to the competition • Applicable to multiple situations


Hypercomptetition Cooperation Coopetition


In evolutionary biologist Jared M. Diamond’s 2004 book, Collapse, he suggests that human societies collapse far more often than they succeed and that this failure is usually due to an inappropriate cultural response to environmental pressures (anthropogenic and otherwise) and poor relations with, or a lack of, neighboring societies.

Closed-loop Supply Chain

Ideally, a zero-waste supply chain that completely reuses, recycles, or composts all materials. However, the term can also be used to refer to corporate take-back programs, where companies that produce a good are also responsible for its disposal.

Climate Neutral

The process of offsetting carbon-producing activities with those that either reduce or capture carbon, thus credibly neutralizing the net amount of carbon released in the atmosphere from a particular activity.

Climate Change

The global climate has changed as human activity has released more and new substances and gases into the atmosphere. This has many results, including global warming, the effect of consistently increased average global temperature, particularly in the oceans. One of the most common term associated with climate change is global warming, which can be confusing […]

Clean Production

Manufacturing processes designed to minimize environmental impact by using the minimum amount of energy and raw materials possible and producing limited waste or emissions

Ceres Principles

A ten-point code of environmental conduct that is publicly and voluntarily endorsed by companies as an environmental mission statement or ethic. Formed in 1989, Ceres is a partnership among environmental groups, labor unions, and institutional investors devoted to using shareholder power to move companies to more sustainable practices. More information:

Cause-Related Marketing

A way that businesses and corporations support and promote nonprofit organizations. A cause marketing program allows a business to engage with nonprofits over and above their community relations program. As the name suggests, the emphasis is on marketing, and that means that a business will draw on its sales and marketing resources to make the […]


In chemistry, an agent that speeds the rate of a chemical reaction. In business, this is often a term for a person who “makes things happen” by providing important knowledge, ideas, motivation or connections (relationships) in order to move an endeavor past a bottleneck.

Carbon Trading

Any trading system designed to offset carbon emissions from one activity (such as burning fossil fuels in manufacturing, driving, or flying) with another (such as installing more efficient technologies, planting carbon-reducing plants, or establishing contracts with others not to partake in carbon-releasing activities). The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) is the first and biggest carbon trading […]


There are a number of related meanings in finance, accounting and economics. Capital refers to assets that can be used to create other assets. Sustainable managers recognize at least three different kinds of capital: financial (cash and other monetary instruments), natural (natural resources that can be used to create products or that provide the natural […]

CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy ) standards

The fuel standards for passenger cars and light trucks were established as part of the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA) enacted in 1975. The Act was passed in response to the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. Though generally opposed by industry, increasing these standards has been advocated by environmentalists as an important step towards decreasing greenhouse […]