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What is Sustainability?

These web pages on sustainability are designed to provide the necessary framework for understanding sustainability. Their purpose is to help individuals, businesses, and government learn how to turn the concepts of sustainability into action.

In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development, known as "the Brundtland Commission”, issued the "Our Common Future" report and defined sustainability as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

The "Our Common Future" report called for a new charter to guide the transition to sustainable development. The resulting Earth Charter, finalized in 2000, earned global consensus. Today, it is used internationally as a reference document in peace negotiations, government processes, community development, and as an educational framework.

According to the Earth Charter, we must work together to create a global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Toward this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

The three pillars of sustainability include the environment, social equity, and the economy. A strong resilient economy depends upon a vibrant and equitable society which in turn relies on a vigorous flourishing environment. The balance of the three pillars leads to prosperity and peace for future generations.

The stacked model represents one view of the sustainability framework. It attempts to demonstrate that a healthy environment provides the foundation for life. The economy is placed in the center to illustrate its key role in creating and maintaining an equitable society and a healthy environment:

The Three Pillars of Sustainability