Sustainability is the process of maintaining change in a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation. Sustainability is a broad discipline, giving students and graduates insights into most aspects of the human world from business to technology to environment and. An award-winning international strategic consultancy and think-tank. SustainAbility inspires and enable business to lead the way to a sustainable economy.
Solvay in the world. Acting for the environment. Acting for a sustainable business. Acting for our employees. Acting for a circular economy. From science to solutions. Why invest in Solvay? FFF - Our graduate program. How sustainable are we? The World Summit on Social Development identified sustainable development goals, such as economic development, social development and environmental protection. One such pillar is future generations, which emphasizes the long-term thinking associated with sustainability.
Sustainable development consists of balancing local and global efforts to meet basic human needs without destroying or degrading the natural environment. A study from pointed out that environmental justice is as important as sustainable development.
The simple definition that sustainability is something that improves "the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems",  though vague, conveys the idea of sustainability having quantifiable limits. But sustainability is also a call to action, a task in progress or "journey" and therefore a political process, so some definitions set out common goals and values.
This suggested a more complex figure of sustainability, which included the importance of the domain of 'politics'. More than that, sustainability implies responsible and proactive decision-making and innovation that minimizes negative impact and maintains balance between ecological resilience, economic prosperity, political justice and cultural vibrancy to ensure a desirable planet for all species now and in the future. While the United Nations Millennium Declaration identified principles and treaties on sustainable development, including economic development, social development and environmental protection it continued using three domains: More recently, using a systematic domain model that responds to the debates over the last decade, the Circles of Sustainability approach distinguished four domains of economic, ecological, political and cultural sustainability ;  this in accord with the United Nations , Unesco , Agenda 21 , and in particular the Agenda 21 for culture which specifies culture as the fourth domain of sustainable development.
Rather, it involves treating all four domains—economy, ecology, politics and culture—as social including economics and distinguishing between ecology as the intersection of the human and natural worlds and environment as that which goes far beyond what we as humans can ever know. Another model suggests humans attempt to achieve all of their needs and aspirations via seven modalities: Human sustainability can be achieved by attaining sustainability in all levels of the seven modalities.
Integral elements of sustainability are research and innovation activities. A telling example is the European environmental research and innovation policy. It aims at defining and implementing a transformative agenda to greening the economy and the society as a whole so to make them sustainable.
Research and innovation in Europe are financially supported by the programme Horizon , which is also open to participation worldwide. Additionally, instigating innovative and sustainable travel and transportation solutions must play a vital role in this process.
Resiliency in ecology is the capacity of an ecosystem to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic structure and viability. Resilience-thinking evolved from the need to manage interactions between human-constructed systems and natural ecosystems in a sustainable way despite the fact that to policymakers a definition remains elusive. Resilience-thinking addresses how much planetary ecological systems can withstand assault from human disturbances and still deliver the service's current and future generations need from them.
It is also concerned with commitment from geopolitical policymakers to promote and manage essential planetary ecological resources in order to promote resilience and achieve sustainability of these essential resources for benefit of future generations of life?
A practical view of sustainability is closed systems that maintain processes of productivity indefinitely by replacing resources used by actions of people with resources of equal or greater value by those same people without degrading or endangering natural biotic systems. In nature, the accounting occurs naturally through a process of adaptation as an ecosystem returns to viability from an external disturbance. The adaptation is a multi-stage process that begins with the disturbance event earthquake, volcanic eruption, hurricane, tornado, flood, or thunderstorm , followed by absorption , utilization , or deflection of the energy or energies that the external forces created.
In analysing systems such as urban and national parks, dams, farms and gardens, theme parks, open-pit mines, water catchments, one way to look at the relationship between sustainability and resiliency is to view the former with a long-term vision and resiliency as the capacity of human engineers to respond to immediate environmental events. The history of sustainability traces human-dominated ecological systems from the earliest civilizations to the present day.
In early human history, the use of fire and desire for specific foods may have altered the natural composition of plant and animal communities. The Western industrial revolution of the 18th to 19th centuries tapped into the vast growth potential of the energy in fossil fuels. Coal was used to power ever more efficient engines and later to generate electricity. Modern sanitation systems and advances in medicine protected large populations from disease.
In the late 20th century, environmental problems became global in scale. In the 21st century, there is increasing global awareness of the threat posed by the human greenhouse effect , produced largely by forest clearing and the burning of fossil fuels. The philosophical and analytic framework of sustainability draws on and connects with many different disciplines and fields; in recent years an area that has come to be called sustainability science has emerged.
Sustainability is studied and managed over many scales levels or frames of reference of time and space and in many contexts of environmental, social and economic organization. The focus ranges from the total carrying capacity sustainability of planet Earth to the sustainability of economic sectors, ecosystems, countries, municipalities, neighbourhood, home gardens, individual lives, individual goods and services [ clarification needed ] , occupations, lifestyles, behaviour patterns and so on.
In short, it can entail the full compass of biological and human activity or any part of it. The sheer size and complexity of the planetary ecosystem has proved problematic for the design of practical measures to reach global sustainability.
To shed light on the big picture, explorer and sustainability campaigner Jason Lewis has drawn parallels to other, more tangible closed systems. A major driver of human impact on Earth systems is the destruction of biophysical resources , and especially, the Earth's ecosystems.
The environmental impact of a community or of humankind as a whole depends both on population and impact per person, which in turn depends in complex ways on what resources are being used, whether or not those resources are renewable, and the scale of the human activity relative to the carrying capacity of the ecosystems involved. Careful resource management can be applied at many scales, from economic sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and industry, to work organizations, the consumption patterns of households and individuals and to the resource demands of individual goods and services.
One of the initial attempts to express human impact mathematically was developed in the s and is called the I PAT formula. This formulation attempts to explain human consumption in terms of three components: The equation is expressed:. In recent years, concepts based on re- cycling resources are increasingly gaining importance.
The most prominent among these concepts might be the Circular Economy , with its comprehensive support by the Chinese and the European Union. There is also a broad range of similar concepts or schools of thought, including cradle-to-cradle laws of ecology, looped and performance economy, regenerative design, industrial ecology, biomimicry, and the blue economy.
These concepts seem intuitively to be more sustainable than the current linear economic system. The reduction of resource inputs into and waste and emission leakage out of the system reduces resource depletion and environmental pollution. However, these simple assumptions are not sufficient to deal with the involved systemic complexity and disregards potential trade-offs. For example, the social dimension of sustainability seems to be only marginally addressed in many publications on the Circular Economy, and there are cases that require different or additional strategies, like purchasing new, more energy efficient equipment.
Sustainability measurement is the quantitative basis for the informed management of sustainability. They are applied over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Some of the best known and most widely used sustainability measures include corporate sustainability reporting , Triple Bottom Line accounting , World Sustainability Society, Circles of Sustainability , and estimates of the quality of sustainability governance for individual countries using the Environmental Sustainability Index and Environmental Performance Index.
According to the most recent July revision of the official United Nations World Population Prospects, the world population is projected to reach 8. This increase will be distributed among the population aged 15—59 1. In contrast, the population of the more developed regions is expected to undergo only slight increase from 1. Emerging economies like those of China and India aspire to the living standards of the Western world as does the non-industrialized world in general.
At the global scale, scientific data now indicates that humans are living beyond the carrying capacity of planet Earth and that this cannot continue indefinitely. This scientific evidence comes from many sources but is presented in detail in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the planetary boundaries framework. The Ecological footprint measures human consumption in terms of the biologically productive land needed to provide the resources, and absorb the wastes of the average global citizen.
In it required 2. The figure right examines sustainability at the scale of individual countries by contrasting their Ecological Footprint with their UN Human Development Index a measure of standard of living. The graph shows what is necessary for countries to maintain an acceptable standard of living for their citizens while, at the same time, maintaining sustainable resource use.
The general trend is for higher standards of living to become less sustainable. As always, population growth has a marked influence on levels of consumption and the efficiency of resource use. Information generated by reports at the national, regional and city scales confirm the global trend towards societies that are becoming less sustainable over time. Romanian American economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen , a progenitor in economics and a paradigm founder of ecological economics , has argued that the carrying capacity of Earth — that is, Earth's capacity to sustain human populations and consumption levels — is bound to decrease sometime in the future as Earth's finite stock of mineral resources is presently being extracted and put to use.
At the enterprise scale, carrying capacity now also plays a critical role in making it possible to measure and report the sustainability performance of individual organizations.
This is most clearly demonstrated through use of Context-Based Sustainability CBS tools, methods and metrics, including the MultiCapital Scorecard, which have been in development since Thus, rather than simply measure and report changes in relative terms from one period to another, CBS makes it possible to compare the impacts of organizations to organization-specific norms, standards or thresholds for what they the impacts would have to be in order to be empirically sustainable i.
At a fundamental level, energy flow and biogeochemical cycling set an upper limit on the number and mass of organisms in any ecosystem. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is an international synthesis by over of the world's leading biological scientists that analyzes the state of the Earth's ecosystems and provides summaries and guidelines for decision-makers.
It concludes that human activity is having a significant and escalating impact on the biodiversity of world ecosystems , reducing both their resilience and biocapacity.
The report refers to natural systems as humanity's "life-support system", providing essential " ecosystem services ".
The assessment measures 24 ecosystem services concluding that only four have shown improvement over the last 50 years, 15 are in serious decline, and five are in a precarious condition. The Sustainable Development Goals SDGs are the current harmonized set of seventeen future international development targets. The Official Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted on 25 September has 92 paragraphs, with the main paragraph 51 outlining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its associated targets.
This included the following seventeen goals: As of August , there were proposed targets for these goals and proposed indicators to show compliance. Adopted by the United Nations member states at the time and more than twenty international organizations , these goals were advanced to help achieve the following sustainable development standards by According to the data that member countries represented to the United Nations , Cuba was the only country in the world in that met the World Wide Fund for Nature 's definition of sustainable development , with an ecological footprint of less than 1.
Healthy ecosystems provide vital goods and services to humans and other organisms. There are two major ways of reducing negative human impact and enhancing ecosystem services and the first of these is environmental management.
This direct approach is based largely on information gained from earth science , environmental science and conservation biology. However, this is management at the end of a long series of indirect causal factors that are initiated by human consumption , so a second approach is through demand management of human resource use. Management of human consumption of resources is an indirect approach based largely on information gained from economics. Herman Daly has suggested three broad criteria for ecological sustainability: At the global scale and in the broadest sense environmental management involves the oceans , freshwater systems, land and atmosphere , but following the sustainability principle of scale it can be equally applied to any ecosystem from a tropical rainforest to a home garden.
At a March meeting of the Copenhagen Climate Council , 2, climate experts from 80 countries issued a keynote statement that there is now "no excuse" for failing to act on global warming and that without strong carbon reduction "abrupt or irreversible" shifts in climate may occur that "will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with". Other human impacts on the atmosphere include the air pollution in cities, the pollutants including toxic chemicals like nitrogen oxides , sulfur oxides , volatile organic compounds and airborne particulate matter that produce photochemical smog and acid rain , and the chlorofluorocarbons that degrade the ozone layer.
Anthropogenic particulates such as sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere reduce the direct irradiance and reflectance albedo of the Earth 's surface. Global dimming may have disturbed the global water cycle by reducing evaporation and rainfall in some areas. It also creates a cooling effect and this may have partially masked the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming. The remaining freshwater is found in glaciers, lakes, rivers, wetlands, the soil, aquifers and atmosphere.
Due to the water cycle, fresh water supply is continually replenished by precipitation, however there is still a limited amount necessitating management of this resource. Awareness of the global importance of preserving water for ecosystem services has only recently emerged as, during the 20th century, more than half the world's wetlands have been lost along with their valuable environmental services.
Increasing urbanization pollutes clean water supplies and much of the world still does not have access to clean, safe water. Ocean circulation patterns have a strong influence on climate and weather and, in turn, the food supply of both humans and other organisms.
Scientists have warned of the possibility, under the influence of climate change, of a sudden alteration in circulation patterns of ocean currents that could drastically alter the climate in some regions of the globe. Loss of biodiversity stems largely from the habitat loss and fragmentation produced by the human appropriation of land for development, forestry and agriculture as natural capital is progressively converted to man-made capital.
Land use change is fundamental to the operations of the biosphere because alterations in the relative proportions of land dedicated to urbanisation , agriculture , forest , woodland , grassland and pasture have a marked effect on the global water, carbon and nitrogen biogeochemical cycles and this can impact negatively on both natural and human systems.
Present-day forests occupy about a quarter of the world's ice-free land with about half of these occurring in the tropics. Food is essential to life. Feeding more than seven billion human bodies takes a heavy toll on the Earth's resources.
Environmental problems associated with industrial agriculture and agribusiness are now being addressed through such movements as sustainable agriculture, organic farming and more sustainable business practices.
The underlying driver of direct human impacts on the environment is human consumption. Consumption of goods and services can be analysed and managed at all scales through the chain of consumption, starting with the effects of individual lifestyle choices and spending patterns, through to the resource demands of specific goods and services, the impacts of economic sectors, through national economies to the global economy.
The ideas of embodied resource use the total resources needed to produce a product or service , resource intensity , and resource productivity are important tools for understanding the impacts of consumption.
Key resource categories relating to human needs are food , energy , materials and water. In , the International Resource Panel , hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP , published the first global scientific assessment on the impacts of consumption and production  and identified priority actions for developed and developing countries. The study found that the most critical impacts are related to ecosystem health, human health and resource depletion.
From a production perspective, it found that fossil-fuel combustion processes, agriculture and fisheries have the most important impacts. Meanwhile, from a final consumption perspective, it found that household consumption related to mobility, shelter, food and energy-using products cause the majority of life-cycle impacts of consumption.
The Sun's energy, stored by plants primary producers during photosynthesis , passes through the food chain to other organisms to ultimately power all living processes. Since the industrial revolution the concentrated energy of the Sun stored in fossilized plants as fossil fuels has been a major driver of technology which, in turn, has been the source of both economic and political power.
Reducing greenhouse emissions, is being tackled at all scales, ranging from tracking the passage of carbon through the carbon cycle  to the commercialization of renewable energy , developing less carbon-hungry technology and transport systems and attempts by individuals to lead carbon neutral lifestyles by monitoring the fossil fuel use embodied in all the goods and services they use. Water security and food security are inextricably linked.
In the decade —60 human water withdrawals were four times greater than the previous decade. This rapid increase resulted from scientific and technological developments impacting through the economy —especially the increase in irrigated land, growth in industrial and power sectors, and intensive dam construction on all continents.
This altered the water cycle of rivers and lakes , affected their water quality and had a significant impact on the global water cycle. Water efficiency is being improved on a global scale by increased demand management , improved infrastructure, improved water productivity of agriculture, minimising the water intensity embodied water of goods and services, addressing shortages in the non-industrialized world, concentrating food production in areas of high productivity, and planning for climate change , such as through flexible system design.
A promising direction towards sustainable development is to design systems that are flexible and reversible. The American Public Health Association APHA defines a "sustainable food system"   as "one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment.
A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities. It recommends the Mediterranean diet which is associated with health and longevity and is low in meat , rich in fruits and vegetables , low in added sugar and limited salt, and low in saturated fatty acids; the traditional source of fat in the Mediterranean is olive oil , rich in monounsaturated fat.
The healthy rice-based Japanese diet is also high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Both diets are low in meat and saturated fats and high in legumes and other vegetables; they are associated with a low incidence of ailments and low environmental impact. At the global level the environmental impact of agribusiness is being addressed through sustainable agriculture and organic farming. At the local level there are various movements working towards local food production, more productive use of urban wastelands and domestic gardens including permaculture , urban horticulture , local food , slow food , sustainable gardening , and organic gardening.
Sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. The sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum as more people become aware about both overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing methods.
As global population and affluence has increased, so has the use of various materials increased in volume, diversity and distance transported. Included here are raw materials, minerals, synthetic chemicals including hazardous substances , manufactured products, food, living organisms and waste. Developed countries' citizens consume an average of 16 tons of those four key resources per capita, ranging up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries with resource consumption levels far beyond what is likely sustainable.
Sustainable use of materials has targeted the idea of dematerialization , converting the linear path of materials extraction, use, disposal in landfill to a circular material flow that reuses materials as much as possible, much like the cycling and reuse of waste in nature.
Synthetic chemical production has escalated following the stimulus it received during the second World War. Chemical production includes everything from herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers to domestic chemicals and hazardous substances.
Although most synthetic chemicals are harmless there needs to be rigorous testing of new chemicals, in all countries, for adverse environmental and health effects.
International legislation has been established to deal with the global distribution and management of dangerous goods. The classification of the toxic carcinogenic agents is handle by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Every economic activity produces material that can be classified as waste. To reduce waste, industry, business and government are now mimicking nature by turning the waste produced by industrial metabolism into resource.
The motivations for companies with public goals differ dramatically from those without. Respondents whose companies have made public commitments say the urgency to mitigate climate change is a large factor. They also see public commitments as a competitive differentiator and as a way to increase brand awareness. These business-forward motivations show the link between perception and progress.
Companies that make public commitments understand that leadership in energy and sustainability fundamentally improve the business. Recent research by CDP indicates that companies leading on climate action outpace others in the stock market.
To meet their public goals, companies are turning to energy efficiency and renewable energy in droves. Ninety-three percent of survey respondents have implemented energy efficiency projects and 63 percent are employing either on- or offsite renewable energy. Companies with public goals are also about 50 percent more likely to adopt distributed energy resources DERs such as energy storage.
Where corporate efforts fall short: Although companies with public goals gravitate toward DERs, these advanced technologies have less general support and adoption. This may be because, compared to energy efficiency and renewable energy, the perceived cost or efficacy of these technologies remains a barrier. Companies are also missing opportunities to capitalize on strategic energy procurement. Especially as the levelized cost of energy continues to fall , strategic sourcing can help stabilize volatile budgets and pay quick returns.
As the energy transition accelerates, continued reduction in the cost of sensing technology and cloud-based processing make it easier for organizations to collect granular data on their resource consumption.
This provides more optimization opportunities than previously possible.
Message from the CEO
Sustainability (ISSN ; CODEN: SUSTDE) is an international, cross- disciplinary, scholarly, peer-reviewed and open access journal of environmental, . Sustainability has often been defined as how biological systems endure and remain diverse and productive. But, the 21st-century definition of sustainability goes. There is no universally agreed definition on what sustainability means. There are many different views on what it is and how it can be achieved. The idea of.