What Is Sustainable?

The March 20, 1987 Brundtland Commission Report of the United Nations on Our Common Future  warned that due to human activity, the Earth’s ecosystems are in decline, threatening the biodiversity and resilience that supports all living organisms, including humans.  The Report calls for “sustainable development” or development “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

It has been recognized that, in business, this requires the reconciliation of environmentalsocial equity and economic demands – the “three pillars” of sustainability, also referred to as “people, planet, profit” or the triple bottom line.  This has been illustrated using three overlapping ellipses, shown above.  Only where all three are reconciled, do we find sustainability.  The ‘triple bottom line’ provides the business model for an increasing number of sustainable businesses.

Sustainable living, sustainable communities, sustainable agriculture, and sustainable development, all refer to ways of living in harmony with the Earth, in ways that do not compromise the delicate balance of her ecosystems for future generations.