What is Sustainability?

‘We've found a new way to win in the marketplace — one that doesn't come at the expense of our grandchildren or the earth, but at the expense of the inefficient competitor.’

Ray Anderson
CEO, Interface Inc.

Sustainability is the “win-win-win” that we have been searching for. It has been called the “triple bottom-line” that recognizes the underlying systems that connect people, planet and the economy.  It is a movement toward integrating systems, futures and critical thinking in the way we see the world.istock_000003435477xsmall

Today businesses are enjoying superior profits and competitive advantage by “greening” their bottom and top-line profits, decreasing their environmental footprint and improving “quality of life” for employees, customers and communities.

It is well recognized that Sustainability – done right – pays. It brings anticipated and unanticipated emergent benefits and has been so successful that for many businesses sustainability strategies have transformed cost centres to profit centres.

Call us to do an inhouse customized program for your workplace on "What is sustainability?"  Click Here to Learn More.

Sustainability Defined

There is no one definition of sustainability.  As you can imagine this causes no end of problems.  Commonly used definitions are provided by:

The Natural Step




The Four Root Causes of Unsustainability

The Brundland Report

Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report:[1]

 "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."

See an analysis of the history of defining sustainability by Robert W. Kates, Thomas M. Parris, and Anthony A. Leiserowitz in Environment: Science & Policy.

General Definition

"Sustainability is the ability of a system to continue working (and evolving) over the long term within certain boundaries and under certain conditions."  Doing sustainable development requires that we understand what those conditions and boundaries are, so that we can help the system to function optimally within them.

Increasingly Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development are used interchangeably. (From: The Sustainability Transformation: How to accelerate postive change in challenging times by Alan Atkisson)


Sustainability in the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Sectors:

Wondering Why Sustainability is Important?


Visit the Website: Welcome to the Anthropocene


What is Sustainability? A Sustainability Solution’s Paper by Jeffrey Hollender, Co-founder, Seventh Generation Inc.

The Natural Step Sustainability Primer.  The Natural Step is the only science based model of sustainability.

Sustainability: A comprehensive foundation.  An open source textbook from the University of Illinois.

Take an E-Learning Course: Sustainability 101

Receive a Certification by taking this award winning Sustainability 101 Course. Review here.

(65-85 minutes in length)


Check Out Other E-Learning Courses on Sustainability

Click Here to Check Out E-Learning Courses


Top Influential Books for Sustainability

The Ecology of Commerce - A declaration of sustainability, by Paul Hawken. (Outstanding)  Click Here. 

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, by Daniel Quinn. (A must read)  Click Here.

Natural Capitalism, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins. (Seminal) Click Here.

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