Agile Sustainability Initiative

The Sustainability Glossary for Agile Professionals

Just like in the Darwinian era, where survival depended on adaptability rather than strength or intelligence. “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent but the one that is most adaptable to change”

If you think about it Agility and Sustainability have always been intertwined. As we strive to save our species whilst regenerating the planet, we understand how complex this area is, and how many acronyms and terms which when combined with our busy schedules, it can feel overwhelming, to say the least. This glossary provides a concise reference to clarify and help you stay focused on the factors that impact and unite us all. Let’s embark on this journey together!

3 Pillars

The three pillars of sustainability are the environment, society, and the economy; often also referred to as Planet, People, and Prosperity (or Purpose). Also, Triple Bottom Line.

Biodiversity Credit

A system that allows investment in environmental projects which contributes to biodiversity protection or restoration and allows market credit trading.

Carbon Accounting

A technique used to decipher the extent of an organization’s direct and indirect carbon emissions.

Carbon Credits

A tradeable certificate that represents the mitigation of a specific amount of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.

Carbon Equivalents

CO₂e is a unit of measurement used to standardize the climate effects of various GHGs (greenhouse gases).

Carbon Footprint

The total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) generated by human activities

Carbon Negative

Also referred to as “carbon sink”, meaning that your reduction of footprint efforts goes beyond just carbon neutrality by making up more than your emissions. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with “climate positive” (with nuisances of course)

Carbon Neutral

Any CO2 released into the atmosphere from a company’s activities is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed.

Carbon Offsets

Serve as “compensation” to an organization or an individual that invests in a project or solution that will reduce future emissions or sequester existing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Carbon Positive

It is how organizations describe climate-positive and carbon negative. It’s mainly a marketing term, and understandably confusing–we generally avoid it.

Carbon Sink

Carbon sinks absorb more carbon than they release, e.g. forests

Circular Economy

A systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, waste, and pollution. It is based on three principles: eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature.

Climate Action

Coordinated efforts to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-induced impacts.

Climate Change

A change of climate attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that changes global atmosphere composition observable over comparable time periods.

Climate Neutral

Reducing all GHGs (greenhouse gases) to the point of zero while eliminating all other negative environmental impacts that may be caused by an organization.

Climate Positive

Activity goes beyond achieving net-zero carbon emissions to create an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Cooperative societies

Entities owned, controlled, and run by and for their members to realize common economic, sociocultural needs and aspirations.


Used in combination with inclusion: diversity and inclusion: the idea that all people should have equal rights and treatment and be welcomed and included so that they do not experience any disadvantage because of belonging to a particular subgroup.

Ecosystem Services

Benefits humans receive from ecosystems.

Emissions Reductions Targets/Commitments

Quantified decrease in GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions related to or arising from activity between two points in time or relative to a baseline.


The right of different groups of people to have a comparable social position and receive the same treatment.


Short for Environment, Society, and Governance. It’s used to assess an organization’s business practices and performance on various sustainability and ethical issues thus providing a way to measure business risks and opportunities.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol

Works to give cities standards and tools they need to measure their emissions, build more effective emissions reduction strategies and measurable goals, and track progress more accurately and comprehensively.


Used in combination with diversity: diversity and inclusion: the concept that all people have equal rights and treatment and be welcomed and included so that they do not experience any disadvantage because of belonging to a particular group.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change + Report is a UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical, and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place. Basically, we are behind in meeting all our SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) goals by 2030!


The International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol provides an overview of current best practice techniques available for verifying results of energy and water efficiency as well as renewable energy projects.

Natural Capital

The world’s stocks of natural assets including geology, soil, air, water, and all living things.

Nature positive

Enhancing resilience by actively restoring and regenerating an ecosystem.

Net-Zero carbon emissions

An activity releases net-zero carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Net-Zero emissions balance

The difference between the whole amount of GHGs (greenhouse gases) released and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

NGO Waste and Resources Action Programme

WRAP: a global climate action NGO (non-governmental organization) tackling causes of the climate crisis for a sustainable future e.g. mindset change in production, consumption, and disposal.

Paris Agreement

A legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by 196 Parties at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, France, on 12 December 2015 and enforced on 4 November 2016. Its overarching goal is to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

Science Based Targets

Shows organizations how much and how quickly they need to reduce their GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Scope 1, 2, 3

Scope 1 is direct GHG emission from sources owned or directly controlled by the organization. Scope 2 is indirect GHG emission from purchased energy. Scope 3 is GHG emission that is a consequence of the organization’s activities arising from sources not owned or directly controlled by the organization.

SROI – Social return on investment

A methodology that gives insight into the social, health, environmental, and economic values created.


Meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable Development

To make the world a better place for everyone now without destroying the possibilities for the next generations.

Sustainable Development Goals

Internationally-agreed set of 17 Goals launched in 2015 that provide a ‘blueprint’ of actions to be achieved globally by 2030.

VCS – Verified Carbon Standard

Carbon offset program developed and run by the non-profit Verra focusing on GHG reduction attributes only; doesn’t require projects to have additional environmental or social benefits.

We are stronger together! Let’s increase the awareness of the challenges we face and also of the Agile community’s possibilities to make a difference. Learn more about the Agile Sustainability Initiative!

Discover the many benefits of membership

Your membership enables Agile Alliance to offer a wealth of first-rate resources, present renowned international events, support global community groups, and more — all geared toward helping Agile practitioners reach their full potential and deliver innovative, Agile solutions.

Not yet a member? Sign up now