Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Brundtland Commission

The above definition of Sustainable Development was given by Brundtland Commission. Brundtland Commission was a commission established by the United Nations in 1983 as World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). The commission was created to address the growing concern “about the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and natural resources and the consequences of that deterioration for economic and social development.”

The outcome of this commission was the “Brundtland Report“. The title of this report was “Our Common Future“. This report gave the definition:

“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” and this definition is quoted first of all when anybody discusses about the sustainability.

Earth Charter

Our Common Future” the report of the “Brundtland Commission” came out with a new guide to sustainable development. The “Brundtland Commission”, called for “a universal declaration” and “new charter” to set “new norms” to guide the transition to sustainable development.

Maurice Strong was a distinguished member of the Commission.

The Earth Charter was proposed during the preparatory process to the UN Conference on Environment and Development — best known as the Earth Summit — held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.

After the Rio Summit or Earth Summit in 1992, in 1994, Maurice Strong (Chairman of the Earth Summit) and Mikhail Gorbachev, working through organizations they each founded (the Earth Council and Green Cross International respectively), restarted the Earth Charter as a civil society initiative, with the help of the government of the Netherlands.

  • Earth Charter is a 2,400 word document divided into 4 sections , called four pillars and sixteen main principles containing sixty-one supporting principles.

It starts with a Preamble and ends with a conclusion “The Way Forward”. The earth Charter can be read here:

3 Pillars of Sustainability

At the 2005 World Summit it was noted that sustainable development requires the reconciliation of environmental, social and economic demands. These three are called the “three pillars” of sustainability viz. Environment, Society & Economy.

Sustainability measurement

The measurement of sustainability in quantitative terms uses various parameters & reporting systems such as indicators, benchmarks, audits, indexes and accounting, as well as assessment, appraisal of the environmental, social and economic domains. Depending upon the tools and reporting methods they can vary. Some important measurements are

  1. Corporate sustainability reporting,
  2. Triple Bottom Line accounting
  3. Environmental Sustainability Index
  4. Environmental Performance Index.

The matrices and indices are called Sustainable development indicators (SDI), which have the potential to turn the generic concept of sustainability into action. The Tripple Bottom Line accounting called TBL or 3BL” uses “people, planet, profit” or “the three pillars” for measurement of sustainability. The ESI and EPI are discussed here.