ESG, SDG & More: Sustainability Acronyms You Need to Know

ESG, SDG & More: Sustainability Acronyms You Need to Know

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As you find yourself engaging in conversations about sustainability or reading up on current trends, it can help to be familiar with many of the common acronyms that are used. So, we’re breaking down ten common sustainability acronyms to help you stay informed and keep you from getting confused.

  1. ESG - Environmental, Social, Governance. These are a set of standards that allow socially conscious investors to measure a company's performance beyond profit. But don't be fooled, this isn't just for publicly traded companies anymore. Smaller companies and brands should be thinking about their own ESG strategies and initiatives. ESG initiatives can mitigate risks to the company, consumers are becoming more interested in companies with ESG goals, and ESG also creates a bit of standardization in the otherwise wild wild west of sustainability claims.
  2. SDG - Sustainable Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals were created by the United Nations. They are a set of 17 interlinked global goals designed to "achieve a better and more sustainable future for all". Some of the goals included are - No Poverty, Climate Action, Zero Hunger, Life Below Water - and so on. You can find the full list here.
  3. CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility. Company’s may choose to implement CSR initiatives, policies, or practices within their private businesses to help affect positive change in the world. While CSR policies can incur high costs for a company, there is clear scientific evidence that it actually increases profitability/value, even if it is a modest increase. CSR initiatives can include diversity, equity and inclusion, charitable global giving, volunteering, and environmentally conscious investments.
  4. GRI - Global Reporting Initiative. The Global Reporting Initiative is an international non-profit organization that promotes economic, environmental, and social responsibility. It is a standards organization that helps businesses, governments, and investors be more transparent about their environmental, economic, and social impacts. The information gathered from GRI is often used in published sustainability reports. 
  5. CDP - Carbon Disclosure Project. CDP runs the global environmental disclosure system. CDP supports companies, cities, states and regions to measure and manage their risks on climate change, water security and deforestation. 
  6. DJSI - Dow Jones Sustainability Index. The DJSI analyzes corporate economic, environmental and social performance for issues like corporate governance, risk management, branding, climate change mitigation, supply chain standards and labor practices (ESG!).
  7. GHG - Greenhouse Gasses. GHGs are gasses that trap heat or radiation in the atmosphere. GHGs are making the Earth’s surface warmer as sunlight easily passes through them. GHG’s are primarily created from burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and petroleum for energy use.
  8. KPI - Key Performance Indicators. KPIs are used as metrics to define and measure progress towards sustainability goals. KPIs are actively monitored once goals are set. KPIs can include a company’s carbon footprint, consumption of energy, recycling rates, and social impact. 
  9. LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is a worldwide rating system used to provide a framework for efficient cost-saving green buildings. 
  10. SASB - Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. SASB is an ESG (see #1) framework that sets standards for disclosure of financially material sustainability information for companies. Material sustainability information includes issues that are economic, environmental, or social issues that a company has an impact on or is impacted by. For example, Coca Cola needs a lot of water for their beverage production. Water scarcity due to climate change is a material concern for their company and could have financial implications for their business. While not required by law, many investors want companies to disclose their sustainability performance which includes material concerns. 

Generally speaking, sustainability means meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations. 

What does sustainability mean to you? We want to hear from you, so drop us a line at

Author: Valerie Hawks, Head of Production & Sustainability for Interact

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