Answer

The nested circle diagram is sometimes preferred over the Venn diagram to illustrate sustainability. The nested circle diagram illustrates that both the economy and social are human-created and must only expand to the extent and the limits of the health of the eco-system.

Therefore, the economy is bounded by the limits of society’s needs, and fulfilling society’s needs are always bounded by the limits of the environment, with the overriding necessity to keep the environment healthy.

The Venn Diagram clearly illustrates that the three dimensions must be balanced. It also illustrates that there can be tension but also synergies among the overlaps. In other words, fulfilling the needs of one dimension can be at the detriment or for the benefit of the other. For example, fulfilling the needs of society for a good quality of life (eliminating poverty) can be accomplished with appropriate economic objectives.

Both illustrations have their advantages. The nested circles diagram places more emphasis on maintenance of resources for the future by ensuring that production does not destroy the assets from which the production comes. The Venn diagram does not explicitly illustrate limits on production of economic goods but only that it must be balanced with ensuring that the social and environmental dimensions are considered when production occurs.

In regard to reporting, because an organization’s reporting is derived from its core values and beliefs, the definition of sustainability will be reflected in its reporting. Concepts such as scale of production and equitable distribution of income will influence choosing indicators for reporting performance, setting of objectives and targets, and engaging with stakeholders.