Sustainability Definitions, Historical Context, and Frameworks
Different experts and organizations define sustainability in different ways. This introductory chapter discusses these definitions and reviews the development of the field of sustainability since it emerged from the United Nations in the 1980s. Additionally, the chapter highlights how sustainability brings together important themes of environment, economics, and social equity to try to limit the impact of human activity on the planet. We highlight how sustainability is assessed and measured by summarizing a number of local, national, and international assessment schemes used in a variety of contexts. We also consider how the three pillars of sustainability (environmental protection, economic development, and social equity) are key to each of the case studies presented in this book. As we consider how the world is changing, society will look more and more to sustainability experts to try to find solutions to our emerging problems. The case studies presented in the book are an important contribution that provides examples on best practices on sustainability and highlights lessons learned and continued barriers and challenges related to sustainability.
KeywordsSustainability Sustainable development Sustainability frameworks Sustainability assessments Sustainability case studies
- Kates, Robert, Thomas M. Parris, and Anthony A. Leiserowitz. 2005. What Is Sustainable Development? Environment 47 (3): 8–21.Google Scholar
- Merriam-Webster. n.d. Definition of Sustainability. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sustainability
- Moore, Julia E., Alekhya Mascarenhas, and Sharon E. Straus. 2017. Developing a Comprehensive Definition of Sustainability. Implementation Science 12 (110): 1–8.Google Scholar
- Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, F.S. Chapin III, E. Lambin, T.M. Lenton, M. Scheffer, C. Folke, H. Schellnhuber, B. Nykvist, C.A. De Wit, T. Hughes, S. van der Leeuw, H. Rodhe, S. Sörlin, P.K. Snyder, R. Costanza, U. Svedin, M. Falkenmark, L. Karlberg, R.W. Corell, V.J. Fabry, J. Hansen, B. Walker, D. Liverman, K. Richardson, P. Crutzen, and J. Foley. 2009. Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity. Ecology and Society 14 (2): 32. http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss2/art32/.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Steffen et al. 2015. Planetary Boundaries: Guiding Human Development on a Changing Planet. Science 347 (6223): 171–180.Google Scholar
- Sustainable Development Solutions Network. 2017a. SDG Index and Dashboard Report 2017. http://www.sdgindex.org/assets/files/2017/2017-SDG-Index-and-Dashboards-Report--full.pdf.
- ———. 2017b. The U.S. Cities Sustainable Development Goals Index 2017. http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/US-Cities-SDG-Index-2017.pdf.
- United Nations. 1972. Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. http://www.un-documents.net/aconf48-14r1.pdf.
- ———. 1987. Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. http://www.un-documents.net/our-common-future.pdf.
- ———. 1992. Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Declaration) and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992. http://legal.un.org/avl/ha/dunche/dunche.html.
- ———. 1997. The Earth Summit +5, Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21. http://www.un.org/esa/earthsummit/.
- ———. 2002. Environment and Sustainable Development: Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Program for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, Outcome Document from the World Summit on Sustainable Development. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/C.2/57/L.83&Lang=E.
- ———. 2012. The Future We Want, Outcome Document. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/66/288&Lang=E.
- ———. 2015. The Millennium Development Goals Report http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2015_MDG_Report/pdf/MDG%202015%20rev%20(July%201).pdf.
- ———. n.d. Small Island Developing States. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/sids.
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 2017. Frontiers 2017: Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern. https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/frontiers-2017-emerging-issues-environmental-concern.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). n.d. Definition of Sustainability. https://www.epa.gov/sustainability/learn-about-sustainability#what.
- Waters et al. 2016. The Anthropocene Is Functionally and Stratigraphically Distinct from the Holocene. Science 351: 6269.Google Scholar