Which sustainability suits you?

  • R. BoonenEmail author
  • S. Aerts
  • J. De Tavernier


When talking about ‘sustainability’ in theory, people often refer to the triple P-concept, where People, Planet and Profit are three pillars of equal value. In practice, these three terms are very often used against each other to prove one’s right, depending on one’s worldview. If one is looking to sustainable solutions for different problems, it is very important to understand how others see the world and evaluate things. One way to analyze different worldviews is by dividing them by focusing either on their ontological status (reductionism versus holism) or on the epistemological status (subjective versus objective). Combining these two gives us four different worldviews: personal-egocentric (subjective-reductionist), culturalsocial (subjective-holistic), ecological (objective-holistic) and technical (objective-reductionist). For each of those four worldviews, a 3P-ranking can be made. In a personal-egocentric worldview, Profit is the main goal because it pleases the People. Planet is often used within the limits of promoting the other P’s, as becomes illustrative in the green-washing by companies. In a cultural-social worldview, People as individuals, as a group or as a species are the major concern, followed by Planet as a necessary biotope for man. Profit is used to make sure that both Planet and People are protected. In an ecological worldview, the Planet as ecosystem is the most important thing, which can only be saved by People and where Profit is the trigger to let People behave in a Planet-saving way. In a technical worldview, mostly People, Planet and Profit are considered as independent entities. This implies that different people have different desires and act different in the same circumstances in order to reach their individual ‘sustainable’ solution.


triple-P-concept worldviews sustainability 


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Copyright information

© Wageningen Academic Publishers 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Science, Technology and EthicsLeuvenBelgium

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