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What is sustainability?

According to the Brundtland Report, sustainability is ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

Sustainability is about equity: a sustainable society is one in which there is equitable access to the Earth’s resources both within and across generations. A sustainable organisation acts not only to ensure its own success but also to benefit the wider community and maintain a natural, healthy environment.

Broadly, sustainability can be divided into three categories, or ‘pillars’: environmental, social and economic. If one pillar is weak, the whole system is unsustainable. Ensuring environmental sustainability includes a reduction in resource depletion, the use of renewable energy sources, and ultimately maintaining the quality of the environment on a long term basis. Social sustainability is the ability of a community to develop processes which maintain a healthy community, not only to meet the needs for its current members but also for future generations. Economic sustainability is the ability of an economy or organisation to support a defined level of economic production indefinitely.