What is Sustainability?

Principles of Sustainabilty have been developed throughout the world since at least the 1990s, and are increasingly being adopted by government and non-government agencies in various forms, all of which are similar and have common threads. All levels of Government in Australia formally adopted principles of sustaiinable development in 1992...

The definition of ecologically sustainable development as adopted by the Australian Government is as follows:

'using, conserving and enhancing the community's resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased'. See http://www.environment.gov.au/about-us/esd

There are many international statements of sustainable development, but they all encompass the same or similar set of key 7 principles. The Australian Government formally adopted a number of principles for Ecologically Sustainable Development in 1992 (Australian Government, 1992 National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development) as follows:

  1. Decision making processes should effectively integrate both long and short-term economic, environmental, social and equity considerations.
  2. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.(This is known as the ‘precautionary’ or ‘Do No Harm’ principle’).
  3. The global dimension of environmental impacts of actions and policies should be recognised and considered.
  4. The need to develop a strong, growing and diversified economy which can enhance the capacity for environmental protection should be recognised.
  5. The need to maintain and enhance international competitiveness in an environmentally sound manner should be recognised.
  6. Cost effective and flexible policy instruments should be adopted, such as improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms
  7. Social License and inclusiveness - decisions and actions should provide for broad community involvement on issues which affect them;
  • to enhance individual and community well-being and welfare by following a path of economic development that safeguards the welfare of future generations
  • to provide for equity within and between generations
  • to protect biological diversity and maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems.