Sustainability or sustainable development explained

The most common definition of sustainability or sustainable development was established by the Brundtland Commission in 1983. It defines sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

But what’s really happening, and why? This video offers a clear, more scientific explanation of sustainability.

How are we inhibiting sustainability?

We all want economies to grow, companies to prosper and people to thrive. We all want to live in a world that allows these things to be a reality today and for generations to come. Yet we – people, businesses, industry, government – are all responsible in one form or another for our actions that threaten the values we cling to.

Sustainability is about living within the earth’s limits; respecting that there are limits to ecosystem resources and the earth’s ability to withstand human impacts. There are four root causes of unsustainability:

  • The extraction of large quantities of materials from the earth such as oil, natural gas and heavy metals that the planet can’t cope with. For example, climate change is largely the result of the impact of excessive burning of fossil fuels.
  • The creation of manmade substances that nature can’t break down such as plastic micro-beads that have invaded the oceans
  • The degradation of the Earth’s ability to keep us and our environment healthy caused by development that displaces helpful ecosystems. For example: draining wetlands that filter pollutants from water or clearing forests that clean air, faster than they can regenerate.
  • The unequal consumption of resources by different societies is leading to social inequity and creating barriers to meeting basic human needs worldwide.

Many are convinced that the urgency for action on sustainable development has never been greater. In 2015, the United Nations achieved international agreement for its 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, which outlines 17 Goals that cover these five key themes:

  • People – to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment
  • Planet – to protect the planet through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations
  • Prosperity – to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature
  • Peace – to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence (There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development)
  • Partnership – to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people

Can we work together to create a better, more sustainable future?

Absolutely. As interconnected beings, we all have a role to play in saving the planet for future generations.

We at Sustainable Hamilton Burlington believe that a sustainable economy starts with sustainable businesses. Forward-thinking business leaders have the strength, the drive and the opportunity to effect positive action throughout your organizations. You can serve as the catalysts for change. Small steps lead to big changes, which in turn can lead to positive environmental impact. The effects will ripple through communities, governments and the world. Not to mention, the positive benefits of realizing greater sustainable value for your company, institution or organization.

If you want to create hope and resilience for the future, we need you to be bold. Step forward. We’re here to help.

“Being a member of this organization has provided our team with useful training workshops and kept us up-to-date on new sustainability and environmental technologies in the industry. It has opened the door for networking opportunities and access to new potential resources and companies that can help further the brand. Sustainable Hamilton has also provided us with useful sustainability tools and worksheets to help the company explore new exciting initiatives. Being a member has been a very positive experience.”

Tony Ngo, Environmental and Sustainability Coordinator, Aryzta