Social Justice

Social justice is an interactive process, not an outcome, in which members of a community seek: fair (re)distribution of resources opportunities and responsibilities challenge the roots of oppression and injustice empower all people to exercise self-determination and realize their full potential and build social solidarity and community capacity for collaborative action (School of Social Welfare, […]

Sustainability Champion

An indication of the sustainability community’s adoption of the term is that both University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized employees as Sustainability Champions for the first time in 2009. UCSB launched a new awards program and the EPA renamed its decade-old environmental awards program Sustainability Champions.


Systems are a set of elements or parts that is coherently organized and interconnected in a pattern or structure.  This pattern or structure thus produces a characteristic set of behaviors, often classified as its “function” or “purpose”  that form a united whole  (Meadows, 2008). Resources: Meadows, D. (2008). Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River […]

Smart Grid

Smart grid technology enables suppliers & consumers to better monitor energy needs. Up until now, utility companies have had very little insight into the energy demands of their consumers and therefore they have not been prepared for peak energy consumption, which results in blackouts. Smart grid is a two-way communication between the consumer & supplier […]

Social Impact Bond

A Social Impact Bond is a financial instrument where private individuals invest in “public” or government programs, where a return on investment is made if certain metrics are achieved. Resources: Social Impact Bonds (n.d.). Social Finance. Retrieved March 8, 2011, from

Sustainability Helix

A tool for helping organizations drive sustainability into the DNA of their corporate structures and funtions. The Helix helps organizations assess their level of involvement as well as ways to integrate sustainability over time across many organizational functions. Co-developed by Natural Capitalism Solutions and graduates from Presidio School of Management, it tracks efforts in 6 […]

Sustainable Market

Ideally, a market that is capable of operating continuously while meeting today’s (global) economic, environmental, and social needs without compromising the opportunity for future generations to use the market to meet their own needs. In practice, a sustainable market is a market that is moving toward that ideal.

Sustainability Marketing

The process of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service in a sustainable market in such a way as to educate customers of the multiple benefits of valuing human, economic, and natural capital.

Sustainable Management

The ability to direct the course of a company, community, organization, or country in ways that restore and enhance all forms of capital (human, natural, manufactured, and financial) to generate stakeholder value and contribute to the well-being of current and future generations.


Derived from the Greek words for “cooperation” and “working together,” synergy is the result of two or more people or companies working together to produce an effect that is greater than the sum of their individual efforts. In business, synergy is often a stated benefit of a merger or acquisition. Unfortunately, this effect is often […]

Strategic Management

The process of developing, implementing, and revising a strategic plan. While strategic planning often involves senior management for planning and communication of strategic goals, strategies, and tactics, strategic management recognizes that without involvement throughout the organization, strategic plans are rarely successful.


Individuals or organizations with an interest in the success or failure of a project or entity. Potential stakeholders in a company may include customers, clients, employees, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, suppliers, partners, creditors, stockholders (shareholders), communities, government courts and departments (city, state, federal, and international), banks, media, institutional investors and fund managers, Labor Unions, Insurers and […]

Social Marketing

The positioning and segmenting of consumers by socially-driven concerns and the development of strategies and solutions that will meet their needs and desires while advancing their social agenda. Products and services which satisfy or appeal to these consumers are often use advertising and promotion that makes social or values-based claims about their manufacturing, use, or […]

Social Entrepreneurship

The act of creating, organizing and managing an income-earning venture to serve an explicit social purpose. The primary mission of a socially entrepreneurial organization is to create value that benefits the health and well-being of individuals, society, or the natural environment, rather than to create wealth for shareholders. Social entrepreneurs draw upon principles and best […]

Smart Growth

Consciously-planned community growth that creates a higher quality of life for all stakeholders. Smart growth requires a collaboration of perspectives, disciplines, and stakeholders. These principles can also be applied to organizations in the pursuit of growth that creates a better organization for all involved. Smart growth principles include: Directing development toward existing communities (vs. new […]

Slow Money

A concept under development by Woody Tasch, Chairman of Investors’ Circle. Inspired by the mission of the Slow Food Movement, Tasch considers that “fast” money investments (such as venture capital) is expected to return a profit quickly but is rarely invested long enough to create sustainable ventures. This is especially true of early-stage companies in […]

Shareholder Activism

The process of dialogue with company executives and filing shareholder resolutions generates investor pressure on corporate executives, garners media attention (which adds even more pressure on corporations to improve their behavior), and educates the public on often-ignored social, environmental, and labor issues. The process has served as a powerful tool to encourage corporate turnaround in […]


A selection of consumers defined by the Roper ASW Green Gauge Report as consumers undecided about environmental issues when it comes to buying and using products and services. In 2007, these customers represent 26% of the total American consumer population and often evaluate environmental issues one at a time, comparing each to their personal benefits […]

Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)

Making investments with an eye towards social, environmental and financial returns. Investors and funds that “screen” companies that violate environmental, social, or other values (across a wide variety of issues, such as: worker’s rights, child labor, minority hiring practices, gender equality, environmental practices, animal rights, foreign investment, charitable giving, etc.) refuse to invest in companies […]

Systems Thinking

Donella Meadows defines a system as “an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something… A system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections and a function or purpose” (Meadows, 11). Elements are the individual parts of a system which tend to be more visible and easy […]

SWOT Analysis

An acronym for a common approach to marketing and strategic planning that emphasizes comparisons between companies and/or products and services to find “holes” or positions in the market that represent more successful market opportunities as well as threats that should be alleviated. Strengths = A comparison listing of competing company, product, or service strengths for […]

Sustainable Growth Ratio

The rate of growth a company can attain without changing its profit margin, assets-to-sales ratio, debt-to-equity ratio, or dividend payout ratio, or without excessive borrowing or issuing new stock. (SGR = plowback ratio • ROE)

Sustainable Development

An approach to developing anything that recognizes the need to meet the challenges of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable Design

The process of developing products, services, and organizations that comply with the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability. There are many principles of sustainable design, including a customer-centric approach, dematerialization, transmaterialization, and biomimicry.


Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This definition was created in 1987 at the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission). It is enshrined in the Swiss federal constitution. It is similar to the “seventh generation” philosophy of the […]

Supply-side Economics

A school of macroeconomic thought which emphasizes the importance of tax cuts and business incentives in encouraging economic growth. This follows the belief that businesses and individuals will use their tax savings to create new businesses and expand old businesses, which in turn will increase productivity, employment, and general well-being.

Supply Chain

A network of individuals or organizations that performs the functions of procurement of materials; transformation of these material into intermediate and finished products; and distribution of these finished products to customers.

Sunk Costs

Used in business decision-making, costs which have already been incurred and which cannot be recovered to any significant degree and, thus, should be ignored.

Substance Flow Analysis (SFA)

A method of assessing the value of materials and energy used in creating a product.


An expression of the strategic intent and purpose of an organization, used to identify core competencies and determine long-term objectives, resource allocations and managerial tasks.

Strategic Planning

An organizational activity that creates a plan of action that meets and responds to high-level goals throughout all operations and communicates these plans so that everyone in the organization can act on them in understandable, coordinated, and effective ways.

Strategic Plan

A complex and ongoing process of organizational change which establishes a context for accomplishing goals, and provides a framework and direction to achieve an organization’s desired future. A strategic plan differs from a business plan in that it focuses more on the overall organizational development and not, specifically, on financial models, investment, and budgets.


Responsible caretaking; based on the premise that we do not own resources but only manage them, and are responsible to future generations for their condition. Making decisions regarding the care of our environment with the goal of passing healthy ecosystems on to future generations.

Steady-state Economy

An economic theory, put forth by Herman Daly in response to geophysicist M. K. Hubbert’s predictions of the limits of the fossil fuel supply, which regards the notion of economic growth in a finite world as inherently unsustainable. Instead, we should pursue a steady-state economy, which exists within our ecosystem and is similarly finite, non-growing […]

SROI (Social Return on Investment)

The measure of an investment’s ability to produce social value in a community or broader society. An attempt to monetize social value in order to help investors assess potential investments based on returns outside of traditional financial measures.

Sole Proprietorship

An unincorporated business that is owned by one individual. The simplest form of business organization to start and maintain. About 76% of all businesses in the USA are sole proprietorships.

Social Accountability 8000

A workplace standard and verification system, created by the human rights organization Social Accountability International (SAI), for assuring just and decent working conditions throughout a supply chain. More information:

Service Economy

An economy which places increased value on delivery and receipt of services for economic benefit and growth than the acquisition and consumption of products and materials. This shift away from an economy of products can place greater emphasis on relationships and can promote resource productivity (if the service provider maintains responsibility for the means of […]

Service Ecology

A system of interactions and actors that, together, create a sustainable and successful service or experience. Service Ecologies often include several companies or organizations that specialize in delivering one part of the total service. These may or may not be distinct to the user of the service. Successful Service Ecologies must realistically allow each company […]

Self-Regulating System

A complex system that regulates it’s own performance by so that it never gets too far off-balance and can bring itself back into homeostasis.

Scenario Planning

Scenario planning is a common technique used in government, academia, and businesses in a variety of industries to identify new opportunities. Scenario planning is a special kind of brainstorming that structures assumptions and a perspective of the future (the scenario) so that a group of people can imagine, in detail, how that future might affect […]

Sensitivity Analysis

A procedure in budgeting that uses incremental adjustments to parameters (such as price and sales) to test the effects on growth or company performance. Sensitivity analysis can help companies determine which parameters have the most effect on revenues. Though useful, sensitivity analysis is sometimes criticized because it deals with only parameter of change at a […]


The common term for the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002. This set of laws significantly changed accounting and audit standards for public companies in order to improve the accuracy of financial disclosures and protect investors from corporate fraud. The act has significantly increased accounting and audit costs for companies but […]