Clarity vs Popularity – A word called “Sustainability”

Linking Sustainability


GUEST POST by Ideas Roadshow

A friend of mine has long argued that there is an inverse relationship between the popularity of a word and its meaning. The trendier a word has become, he says, the fuzzier it is, until eventually it’s used everywhere and means nothing.

“Sustainability” seems a perfect example for his theory. Once a word primarily associated with dour environmentalists, it’s hard to think of someone these days who does not avidly chatter away about its merits. Politicians of all stripes routinely vie to outdo one another to demonstrate their sustainability credentials. Corporations now have Chief Sustainability Officers. We are all sustainability advocates now. But what are we actually talking about?

Not much, it seems.

Into this yawning semantic void steps Andy Hoffman. A business school professor who regularly rubs shoulders with major players throughout America’s corporate landscape, Hoffman might seem an odd choice to be the…

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