Sustainability is a societal goal with three dimensions (also called pillars):
- the environmental dimension
- the economic dimension
- the social dimension
This concept can be used to guide decisions at the global, national and at the individual consumer level. A related concept is that of sustainable development. UNESCO formulated a distinction as follows: “Sustainability is often thought of as a long-term goal (i.e. a more sustainable world), while sustainable development refers to the many processes and pathways to achieve it.”
For many people, especially those from the environmental movement, sustainability is closely linked with environmental issues. This is also called “environmental sustainability”, and is explained with the “planetary boundaries” model. The public is concerned about human impacts on the environment. The most dominant environmental issues since about the year 2000 have been climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental pollution and land degradation (such as deforestation and general degradation of ecosystems).
The economic dimension of sustainability vs the concept of sustainability itself
The economic dimension of sustainability is as controversial as the concept of sustainability itself. This is partly because of the inherent contradictions between “welfare for all” and environmental conservation. To resolve this contradiction, the decoupling of economic growth from environmental deterioration needs to be considered. It is difficult to achieve because environmental and social costs are not generally paid by the entity that causes them, and are not expressed in the market price. Usually, externalities are either not addressed at all or are left to be addressed by government policy or by local governance. Some examples are: taxing the activity (the polluter pays); subsidizing activities that have a positive environmental or social effect (rewarding stewardship); or outlawing the practice (legal limits on pollution).
The social dimension of sustainability is the least defined and least understood dimension of sustainability. Some academics have proposed more dimensions of sustainability such as institutional, cultural, and technical dimensions.
17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
These are the 17 goals
- No Poverty
- Zero Hunger
- Good Health And Well-Being
- Quality Education
- Gender Equality
- Clean Water And Sanitation
- Affordable And Clean Energy
- Decent Work And Economic Growth
- Industry, Innovation And Infrastructure
- Reduced Inequalities
- Sustainable Cities And Communities
- Responsible Consumption And Production
- Climate Action
- Life Below Water
- Life On Land
- Peace, Justice And Strong Institutions
- Partnerships For The Goals