What is sustainability?

The ecological definition of sustainability originated with the Brundtland Report in 1987, which describes sustainable development as one that satisfies the needs of the present without adversely affecting the conditions for future generations.

The report highlighted the interconnectedness of economic, social and ecological processes and was the foundation of the three-dimensional concept that was popularised at the 1992 earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. This concept is based on the three connected dimensions of environment, society and economy. This expresses the following:

  • Economic, social and ecological processes are interconnected. The actions of both public and private stakeholders cannot be considered as isolated, one-dimensional aspects; instead, one must consider the interrelationship between the three dimensions of environment, economy and society.
  • Sustainable development means more than just environmental protection. To satisfy our material and immaterial needs, we need economic well-being and a society based on solidarity.
  • The effects of today's actions on the future must be taken into account (intergenerational aspect) so that future generations can also satisfy their needs.
  • Sustainable development requires a long-term structural change in our economic and social system, with the aim of reducing environmental and resource consumption to a sustainable level while maintaining economic performance and social cohesion.

Sources:  Brundtland Report 1987, Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE

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