Sustainability

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Sustainability means different things in different contexts, but always incorporates the tenet that we should concern ourselves with future needs.

Emerging from the environmental movement, the concept of sustainable development was made prominent by the Brundtland Report (1987) as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". Later on it gained a stable foothold as a topic of interest in politics through international summits like the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (1992) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2002). Policies upholding this central idea encompass many social, economic and environmental aspects of topics like water, energy, poverty, climate change and biodiversity.

Sustainability in ecology may refer to the "state wherein anthropogenic use of natural resources is kept to a limit or made adequate for human needs thus avoiding to inflict harm to other life forms and future generations, preserving biodiversity, and promoting a period of natural restoration".[1] In economics, sustainability may concern "the specification of a set of actions to be taken by present persons that will not diminish the prospects of future persons to enjoy levels of consumption, wealth, utility, or welfare comparable to those enjoyed by present persons".[2] These understandings of sustainability are considered to be closely inter-related, but not identical.

Key tools to determine how sustainable a specific product or process is are life cycle assessment and the waste hierarchy.

As a buzzword[edit]

"Sustainability" has become a new buzzword in the advertising world as a means of greenwashing, viz. "Product X has been approved as a sustainable product by our Department of Sustainable Sustainability and is manufactured in a sustainable environment in a sustainably sustainable manner for all your sustainable needs."[3]

References[edit]