Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 179–192 | Cite as

A New Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Development

Original paper


A critical review of the multidisciplinary literature on sustainable development reveals a lack of a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding sustainable development and its complexities. A critical review shows that the definitions of sustainable development are vague; there is a lack of operative definitions and disagreement over what should be sustained; the concept is unclear in terms of emotional commitment; and it “remains a confused topic”, “fraught with contradictions”. This article aims to theoretically synthesize the interdisciplinary literature on sustainable development, and then identify the results by broad categories. Therefore, this article uses conceptual analysis, which reviews multidisciplinary literature on sustainable development, which recognizes patterns and similarities within the literature, then it synthesizes the patterns to different categories and independent concepts, where each concept has distinctive meanings and represents close ideas on sustainability. The analytical process elaborates seven concepts that together assemble the theoretical framework of ‘sustainable development’ and each concept represents distinctive meanings of the theoretical framework.


Conceptual Framework Eco-form Equity Integrative Management Global Agenda Sustainable Development Utopianism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Urban Studies and PlanningMIT – Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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