The word “sustain” means to maintain or endure. Sustainability involves the environment, society, and the economy. With this we can extrapolate and define sustainability as the idea of keeping the economy unharmed while maintaining the environment and limiting societal externalities. This definition answers the second question of the prompt. No, sustainability and capitalism are not mutually exclusive. Capitalism, as we have read about and seen so far, creates externalities that threaten the environment and affect society, but it is also capitalism that have, can, and will fix these externalities. For example, in the past decade or two people have become increasingly worried about the use of fossil fuels and high level of carbon emissions that threaten the world’s climate. It is through capitalism that these problems are being addressed and solutions are being proposed. Solar, hydroelectric, and wind energy companies are innovating and creating ways to solve the issue of fossil fuel dependence. Well within the next few decades we will see these forms of energy capture become competitive with and eventually replace fossil fuels. Oil and gas are much more expensive to extract from the ground than capturing energy from the wind or the sun. Once the technology is there, fossil fuel dependence will be a thing of the past.
Though this is only one example, it can be broadly generalized to every other externality created by capitalism. Even if one deems the sole goal of capitalism is maximizing profits, there is a great deal of profit to be made in solving externalities. Consumers also put a value on environmentally friendly companies, often making it more profitable to strive towards sustainable means of production. Profit maximization through capitalism is still accomplishable when accompanied with sustainability.