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Sustainability considers the long term environmental and other effects of an organisation's activities, seeking to ensure that they do not degrade the physical environment or other necessary conditions for well being.

Sustainability has a number of important dimensions in treasury and finance, including environmental sustainability, financial sustainability and social sustainability.

Environmental sustainability involves making decisions and taking actions which expressly take responsibility for the impact on the environment, and avoid depleting or degrading natural resources such as soil, water, forests, and biological diversity.

Financial sustainability is achieved when an organisation is able to earn reliable financial surpluses and generate cash in the medium and longer-term.

Financial sustainability includes the ability to pay back borrowings over time, with interest, while maintaining necessary levels of internal investment.

Social sustainability seeks to identify and manage the impact of business and other activities on people. For example, employees, customers, suppliers, others employed by customers and suppliers, and host communities.

Historically, it was often considered that there was a conflict between environmental sustainability and financial sustainability.

More recently, an increasingly mainstream view is that it is only environmentally sustainable businesses which are fully financially sustainable.

This view suggests that there need be no conflict between an organisation’s environmental and financial objectives, when a sufficiently long-term view is taken.

Sustainability is increasingly being used as a component in borrowings and credit evaluation.

Credit rating agencies are also taking sustainability principles into account.

Credit ratings and ESG
"The European Commission’s Sustainable Finance High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) says that credit rating agencies should “systematically integrate” relevant environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria into their credit-rating analyses, along with factors related to longer-term sustainability..."
The Treasurer, web exclusive, June 2019.

See also