– Introduction and Milestones –

Sustainability concept

Do you remember how the term “sustainability” was introduced into the world? When did humankind realize that we can’t keep exploiting our world?

Exactly, the first scientific paper discussing the depletion of the world’s resources was called “the limits to growth”. It was published by the Club of Rome in 1972. Today it is clear to us, that we do not have unlimited resources and that our planet has boundaries we need to respect. However, forty years ago people did not have that notion and when the book predicted that natural resources would not be able to support our present economy and population growth further than 2100, a worldwide discussion started in the scientific community.

1987 Gro harlem Brundtland introduced the term of “sustainability”:

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

The citation is taken from the UN report “our common future”, which is also called “Brundtland report”. The needs of the present relate to environmental, social and economic factors at the current state of the art. However, the definition means that sustainability is not only related to the present but is rather a long term target that we need to focus on. Furthermore, sustainable development does not mean stopping the “economic and social” development.

If you feel like reading (some parts of) the report, click on the icon. It will lead you dirctly to the PDF.


Strategies for sustainable development in practice:

The first aspect that should be considered is to bring together the aspirations and capacities of government, civil society and the private sector to create a vision for the future. To achieve this vision, we need to work together in a tactical and progressive way. Secondly, we can build further on ideas and approaches that have already worked in practice and improve them further.

Three pillars concept

When you hear or read “three pillars” your mind should directly shoot to “Environmental, Social and Economical”! These three words are like the alphabet of sustainability because we need to consider the three of them together if we truly want to be sustainable.

Weak Model

This model of the three pillars assumes that there is no difference between three capitals and that they all ensure equaly out well-being. (Ekins et al., 2003; Neumayer, 2003; Neumayer, 2012)

Strong Model

The strong model on the other hand looks at natural capital as the basis for the other two. Here, the environment is not viewed as a stock of resources as there cannot be social and economic capital without it.



What are the innovative aspects of the sustainable development concept?

Which are the pillars of sustainability? How many are there?

How do the pillars interact with each other?