What do you mean by Sustainable Development?

What is Sustainable Development

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Sustainability implies a balanced relationship between natural and human systems. Sustainable development strives to achieve harmony between human development and natural systems by efficiently using the existing built environment and integrating new development with the natural context. It takes into account the full life cycle cost of a project, including broader concerns such as its effect on the environment and the community, not just the financial cost.

This approach recognizes that a good solution is one that solves several problems at once without creating new ones. Only a holistic, integrated approach achieves the optimal solutions that can meet today’s needs without compromising future availability of resources.

Concept of Sustainability

During the latter half of 19th century many nations realized  that there was an environment price to pay for human development. This price is on the one hand the depletion of non- renewable resources, such as the fossil fuels on which much of our current economic activity depends, and on the other hand the destruction of the environment balance that creates the conditions supporting human life on the planet.

Sustainability is therefore the condition or state that would allow the continued existence of homosapiens, and it is goal we would like to achieve. Because of endlessly changing external and internal conditions, this is not a fixed state, but one of dynamic balance where we will have to continuously adapt to those changing conditions.

Sustainability of settlements is a multidimensional problem, dealing with spatial characteristics, geographic locations, settlement dimensions, environmental conditions, economic viability, institutional ability and structure, human development, social relationships etc. The field of sustainable development can be conceptually divided into four general dimensions: social, economic, environmental and institutional. The first three dimensions address key principles of sustainability, while the final dimension addresses key institutional policy and capacity issues.

Key components of sustainable development


Sustainable development does not focus solely on environmental issues. More broadly, sustainable development policies encompasses three general policy areas : economic, environmental and social. A sustainable settlement/region would therefore minimize pollution and waste, as well as the consumption of resources such as water, energy and land. At the same time, it would take active steps to ensure the protection of ecologically sensitive sites such as wetlands, areas of high biodiversity, forests, etc.

Core Principles of Sustainable Development

  • Quality of Life ( including and linking social, economic and environmental aspects)
  • Care of environment
  • Thought for future and precautionary principle
  • Partnership and participation

Sustainable development mainly is the principle where the human goals are achieved without compromising the sustaining ability of future generations by damaging the present natural environment. The ecosystem and the natural resources should not be harmed on which the society and the economy depends. In short, sustainable development is the ability to meet the needs of the present without hampering future generations.

However, the concept can be interpreted in different ways. The modern concept which is derived from 1987 Brundtland Report, where the focus is more on protecting the social, economic and environmental development for our future generations to come. However, we should consider that any form of development will gradually lead to the exhaustion of natural resources. It has been argued that the development of the modern economy fueled primarily by the development of technology and technology as such depends mostly on the use of fossil fuels, so the exhaustion of this non-renewable resource is definite.

Solar Energy

Related: Millennium Development Goals

It was soon realized that environmental concerns cannot be prioritized over the development of the human society and the concept of “sustainable development” was introduced as the main priority instead of the sole target of achieving human-ecosystem equilibrium or just “sustainability”.

Sustainable development refers to the development that can be brought about in the human society through a holistic approach that leads to the sustainability of the environment while also ensuring that the basic needs of the society is met globally. Based on this approach the Managed Sustainable Development or MSD was introduced.

Managed Sustainable Development aims to reconcile economic development and social obligations towards the environment and the global human population. It charts out various organized principles and practices to bring about economic development by turning and leveraging environmental commitments and sustainability measures into market opportunities.

In 1992 the Earth Charter was published by the UN Conference on Environment and Development outlining the principles for the building of a just, peaceful and sustainable society in the 21st century. Agenda 21 was introduced in this Charter as the action plan for sustainable development. Agenda 21 was first amongst the various steps that were taken by the United Nations to integrate environmental and social concerns in all the developmental processes on a global level.

Indicators of Sustainable Development

It is important that the development plan reflects the sustainability indicators that are used in preparing the plans or that are attendant to the objectives of the plan so that the plan could be evaluated through the indicators.

The operationalization of the plan elements and the sustainability indicators can be achieved by linking indicators and targets with the goals and objectives of the development plan. The goals and objectives of the plan should be used to develop indicators and set targets for sustainability.

The development of sets of sustainability indicators is very complex because there are a lot of components (social, economic and environmental) to measure and there is no single index that sufficiently measures these factors.

Indicators provide an important tool for mapping the sustainable development process and for monitoring sustainability of the region/city.

The United Nation Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) has developed a preliminary set of 134 indicators. The United Nations Commission for Human Settlements, UNCHS, has developed a set of 23 key indicators. Indicators provide a comprehensive picture to cities/regions. Which, with other indicators will provide a quantitative comparative base for the condition of cities, and show progress towards achieving urban objectives.

Education for Sustainable development

As a part of the Sustainable development plan, Education for Sustainable development was adopted which aims to encourage knowledge and skills that would help in understanding and implementing the various principles of sustainable development. The education system intends to encourage and empower the future generations to achieve an equitable society with values and attitudes that would help to integrate the environment, economic and social dimensions.

The ESD aims to enhance the capacity of each individual to understand the importance of sustainable development and contribute effectively for a better future. This educational concept aims to integrate sustainability issues in both the local and global levels to the curriculum to improve understanding and scope of response to the changing climate and conditions. The Education for Sustainable Development is applicable to all levels including both formal and informal systems of education.

Smart Cities Using AI

Sustainable technology needs to be implemented in each and every aspect of production which would include the manufacturing process, its packaging, transportation, and its disposal after consumption. The move from non-renewable energy resources to non-renewable energy resources like solar, tidal or hydroelectric power needs to be made at a global level to reduce the environmental impacts of hydrocarbon emissions into the environment.

Sustainability can be implemented in every sphere including agriculture, architecture, transportation, politics and business strategies. Green technologies are being promoted and accepted worldwide and with more research being conducted in the field there are possibilities of better sustainable development in a broader way.

Remote sensing and GIS play a major role in maintaining sustainability in the environment. With the facts and figures and comparative analysis of the past year and the present, it is very easy to predict future sustainability with the help of different models and analysis. If only degradation and wastage is seen over a certain area, preventive measures should be taken so that at least the upcoming generation can utilize.

Goals of sustainable development by United Nations

Every person has a part of his own to play. Small, collective actions can bring massive real change to the world. In the year 2015, the United Nations General Assembly introduced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is “universal, integrated and transformative”. It sets a collection of 17 goals for sustainable development that are to be implemented in all the countries of the world starting from the year 2016 to 2030. Few of the main areas which cover these 17 goals are economic inequality, peace and justice, innovation, climatic shift and many others. These goals are also known as the Global Goals and is a universal call to protect the earth and end poverty so that every human can enjoy peace and harmony.

Below is the list of the 17 goals of sustainable development that are to be achieved globally by the year 2030.

  1. No poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  2. Zero hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
  3. Good health and well-being for people: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
  4. Quality education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  5. Gender equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  6. Clean water and sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  7. Affordable and clean energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
  8. Decent work and economic growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.
  10. Reducing inequalities: Reduce income inequality within and among countries.
  11. Sustainable cities and communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
  12. Responsible consumption and production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  13. Climate action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy.
  14. Life below water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
  15. Life on land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  17. Partnerships for the goals: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

The sustainable development goals aim for a development that is global and encompasses each and every aspect of society. It aims to improve the quality of life and looks at the human population as a part of the environment that needs to be sustained and offer conditions to survive that would be acceptable and conducive to all. This includes environmental, social and economic conditions in a global level.

Related: Sustainable Development Goals United Nations