Sustainability is all about keeping people and the planet going, well into the future. Our favourite definition is….
“…conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.”According to the U.S National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
Sustainability allows people and planet to thrive in the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to thrive too.
Environment used to be the main point of sustainability. As you can see this is no longer the case. We hear a lot about life changing environmental activities, climate change, deforestation, pollution and these are big deals that affect us all, but sustainability is even bigger than this. The broad concept incorporates people as well as the planet and a third pillar, economy, that brings the two together.
The 3 Pillars of Sustainability
Society focuses on health wellness, equality and education of people with quality of life as major priority. It is ensuring that people have equal opportunities to have their basic needs met and that no one is left behind.
Economy focuses on using resources sensibly and efficiently such that the value of those resources are not diminished in the future.
All of these aspects are interconnected, affect each other and affect us all. Sustainability is about getting the right balance for this sacred trio, ensuring we look after the environment such that society is able to thrive, keeping a check on society such that the environment is not destroyed past reclaim and where does economy fit in? Good strong economies mean not only mean that everyone has a slice of the pie but that the pie is bigger, without being so big that it falls off the table!
How the 3 pillars interact
The climate crisis, largely caused by environmental degradation caused by humans has led to an increase in severe drought, rising sea levels and extreme weather occurrences, which in turn has wide reaching implications for Society and Economy.
It costs industry and governments millions of dollars to deal with the impacts of severe weather occurrences, money that must be redirected from other budgets at short notice. In some places, conflicts arise, and governance and economic stability are threatened (see Syria’s story of migrant crisis here).
It affects society in many ways, causing environmental forced migration not just for citizens of places like Syria or Bangladesh but in the United States. There could be up to 13 million people displaced by climate change in the US alone by the end of the century. This affects families and children especially, potentially reducing access to the basic needs of housing, health and education.
The Sustainable Development Goals
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the world’s best plan to build a better world for people and our planet by 2030.
Adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, the SDGs are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the environment.
They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, equality and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and working to preserve our ocean and forests.
It may feel like sustainability and these Global Goals don’t affect you. But hopefully we have shown that they do. As active citizens and consumers living in an increasingly interconnected world, our daily actions can have important impacts on other people, communities and the environment. Everything you do, eat, wear is intrinsically linked to the SDGs even down to your underpants!