- Date: 15th century
- 1 : the office, duties, and obligations of a steward
- 2 : the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care <stewardship of our natural resources>
Historically, stewardship was the responsibility given to household servants to bring food and drinks to a castle dining hall. The term was then expanded to indicate a household employee's responsibility for managing household or domestic affairs. Stewardship later became the responsibility for taking care of passengers' domestic needs on a ship, train and airplane, or managing the service provided to diners in a restaurant.
The term continues to be used in these specific ways, but it is also used in a more general way to refer to a responsibility to take care of something owned by someone else. Stewardship is an ethic that embodies cooperative planning and management of environmental resources with organizations, communities and others to actively engage in the prevention of loss of habitat and facilitate its recovery in the interest of long-term sustainability (Fisheries and Oceans Canada - 'Stewardship in Action' program)
According to the EPA, Environmental stewardship is the responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment. To be a steward; and or act in steward to an object, is known as stewardness. A good example of environmental stewardship is group called Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association located on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. They bring landowners, farmers, fisherman and the general public together in a community driven initiative to rehabilitate streams, rivers and creeks for the sake of water quality and the fisheries resource on Manitoulin Island and the Great Lakes.