Per the 1987 Brundtland Commission ‘Our Common Future’
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Over the years there has much debate as to what comprises sustainable development. Approaches include:
1. Ecological or environment: Maintain the resilience and robustness of biological and physical systems.
2. Economic: Maximize the income while maintaining the constant or increasing stock of a region.
3. Social-cultural: Maintain the balance and stability of social and cultural systems.
These approaches must complement each other as the following diagram illustrates:
Most Governments and commentators focus on economic development with success measured by growth in GNP (Gross National Product). This economic development often has negative impacts on the environment and on social conditions. Many attempts have been, and are being, made to better balance the three aspects these include:
1. The Human Development Index
which considers life expectancy at birth and education in addition to GNP per capita.
2. World Bank Development Diamonds
covering life expectancy at birth, gross primary (or secondary) enrolment , access to safe water, and GNP.
3. The UN Environment Programme’s Global Environment Outlook
which considers environmental issues.
4. Prof Tim Jackson’s book on Prosperity without Growth
which noted that human wellbeing is increased by building communities and appreciating of traditional values as well as by increased GNP per capita.
5. The OECD’s Taskforce for measuring sustainable development defines four types of resources (or "capital") that can be measured today, and that matter for future well-being: economic, natural, human, and social capital. It publishes a ‘Better Life Index’
on how countries are doing.
The UN is now currently developing ‘Sustainable Development Goals’
to guide priorities.