What is Sustainability?

Sustainability means considering the future when we make decisions about the present. It means being aware that our resources are finite and limited and that we need to make careful choices to use natural resources carefully and wisely, while also being aware of the long-term priorities and the consequences of our actions.

The Three Pillars of Sustainability

The World Summit on Social Development identified three core areas of sustainable development in 2005. These three pillars are used in many national standards and form the basis of strategies that have been developed to address the sustainability challenges that are faced globally and locally. They provide a model to achieve sustainability by equally balancing economic, social and environmental factors. The three pillars of sustainability are:

Economic Sustainability – Economic sustainability means using our resources efficiently and responsibly so that we can carry on living and managing our lives and businesses in a sustainable way. Without acting responsibly and using our resources efficiently we will not be able to sustain our own, our companies or our countries economic well-being in the long term.

 Social Sustainability – This is the ability of society to achieve good social well-being standards. Achieving social sustainability ensures that the social well-being of a country, an organisation, or a community can be maintained in the long term. It includes ensuring the protection of people’s health and well-being including access to basic resources such as food, water and shelter without compromising the planet. For example, creating new housing using sustainable materials and without carbon emissions.

Environmental Sustainability – Environmental sustainability means protecting the environment and living within the means of our natural resources. To achieve environmental sustainability, we need to ensure that we are consuming our natural resources, such as materials, energy, fuels, land, water etc. at a sustainable rate.  We also need to protect our ecosystems and our air and water quality. Working towards achieving net zero carbon emissions is also an important part of environmental sustainability.

The Primary Goals of Sustainability

The main goals of sustainability include:

  • End of poverty and hunger
  • Better standards of education
  • Better healthcare, especially good water quality and better sanitation globally
  • Achieving gender equality
  • Tackling the effects of climate change, pollution and other environmental factors that harm people’s health, livelihoods and lives.
  • Protecting the health of the land, air and sea
  • Management of the environment and of consumption (for example, promoting the use of recyclable materials, reducing packaging and discouraging food waste)
  • Sustainable economic growth while promoting jobs and stronger economies.

These sustainability goals aim to make the world a better and safer place for all of us.