What is sustainability and in which forms does it develop?


When we think of sustainability in terms of nature, it’s often to do with protecting the environment. However, there is a much broader definition that encompasses economic growth as well as environmental and social issues. Sustainability refers to the ability of a system to maintain its processes and functions indefinitely in the face of changes in its internal or external environment.

The ability to maintain its functions

Sustainability is the ability of a system to maintain its processes, functions and other properties indefinitely. A system is a set of elements that interact in some way. These elements include all aspects of an organization, from its physical infrastructure to its human resources and intellectual capital.

Sustainable development is the process by which economic development can be achieved without compromising future generations’ quality of life or natural capital. It attempts to answer the following questions: Can we have economic progress without destroying our environment? Can we have economic progress without degrading our resources?

Environmental dimension of sustainable development:

  • To ensure that future generations enjoy standard of living at least as good as now with respect to poverty (income), health (life expectancy) education (literacy), employment opportunities etc.;
  • To ensure that these conditions are achieved in a way that maintains or improves environmental quality;


A fine balance

The maintenance of sustainability requires certain conditions for the long term success of organisms and ecosystems.

The environment must not be overused. The environment must be protected, conserved and preserved for future generations. It is also necessary to manage the environment sustainably so that it can continue to provide benefits without declining in quality or collapsing altogether.

The definition of sustainability

The definition of sustainability is: “the capacity to endure, as in a person or society”. In this context, we can define sustainability as the ability of a system to maintain its natural resource base and provide for future generations. There are four principles that describe this property:

  • Sustainable systems must have access to renewable resources.
  • They must be able to absorb and eliminate the wastes they generate (this includes the potential harm from those organic wastes).
  • Sustainable systems tend towards a steady state rather than an ever-increasing expansion; they cannot continue indefinitely at their present rate of exploitation or use of resources (i.e., non-renewable resources).
  • They should be just, equitable and fair for all who are involved (including humans).

There are a number of ways in which people alter the landscape in order to make it more suitable for their needs. Some of these ways include the use of tools such as bulldozers, tractors and chainsaws. Other methods include using cars and trucks on pavement; planes and ships in the air; rockets into space; and even tunneling deep underground.

Sustainable development is a broader concept that considers how economic growth can be achieved while protecting environmental quality and social well-being. It encompasses social, environmental and economic considerations.

Sustainable development encompasses social, environmental and economic considerations with an emphasis on economic growth, environmental protection and social equity.

It is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It aims for a harmonious and balanced approach between humans, nature and society which can be maintained indefinitely; this is what distinguishes it from other forms of development that are based on continuous depletion or exploitation of resources or on creating large-scale change to improve humanity’s existence in one way or another.


What can future generations do

Sustainable development does not focus only on what needs to be done today but also considers future generations who will use natural resources for the future. This can be achieved by taking into account social, economic and environmental factors when making decisions. Sustainable development aims to meet the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) was held in Johannesburg in 2002 and led to a UN General Assembly resolution affirming “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for all including food, clothing and housing; clean water; sanitation; health care services; social security and education” as well as other rights such as those outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Environmentalists argue that we should preserve our natural resources for future generations so they have just as much opportunity as we do now to enjoy them without having them depleted by overuse or pollution. The concept of sustainability is about finding a balance between what we take from the Earth and how we use it, which can be hard to achieve because of population growth and industrialization. While there are countless examples of what sustainability might look like in practice, there are four main ways in which conservation efforts manifest themselves:


Sustainability means taking steps to protect nature.

Sustainability is the ability of a system to thrive and survive for an indefinite period of time. It is closely related to the concepts of ecology, resource management and environmentalism. Sustainability has been described as a process of maintaining what we have without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainability has been defined as:

  • “meeting the needs of society today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations Environment Programme)
  • “meeting our human needs while preserving natural resources and ecosystems so that these meet the needs not just of today but all those who come after us” (World Commission on Environment and Development)

Sustainability is an important issue for all of us, because it affects our environment and future generations. We can help by making small changes in our lives that will have a big impact on the world around us.