Sustainable development

What is sustainable development?

Sustainable development was defined in the World Commission on Environment and Development’s 1987 Brundtland report ´Our Common Future` as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. It seeks to reconcile economic development with the protection of social and environmental balance.

Over the past century industrialisation, population increase, economic growth, technological know-how and the expansion of trade and foreign direct investment have fuelled a consumer-driven lifestyle, especially in the developed world. The planet's resources are being squandered and environmental problems have been allowed to accumulate to the point where finite resources are in danger of being exhausted and pollution threatens our ability to replenish many of them. This approach has failed to consider the long-term good of the ecosystem and is building up insurmountable problems for future generations, who will not benefit from the plentiful, unsullied, natural resources available in the twentieth century unless we take urgent action to stop the damage and try to reverse some of the harm.

Sustainable development can be achieved only if it is recognized as a global objective: whatever is undertaken in one country or area will impact on the wider environment. Global perspectives are necessary even for local decisions and improvements in conditions in one area must not be sought at the expense of conditions elsewhere.