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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S100-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2000
Retrieved April 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Sustainability is a property of any activity, practice, process or institution that has the capacity to be continued in more or less the same way indefinitely. The concept has risen to prominence in recent years in response to the realization that continued social and economic development may not be sustainable in view of the unprecedented environmental changes that it brings about. Development is said to be sustainable, in the words of the ’ Brundtland Report’, when it ’ meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. This prescription is widely perceived to capture and to integrate a number of existing social and political objectives (justice, the alleviation of poverty and the protection of the environment), and following the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 it is now the declared objective of local and national governments worldwide, as well as of a large number of business and non-government organizations. Given its purported practical relevance, a great deal of intellectual effort has been concentrated upon developing a viable conception of sustainability for policy purposes. Economic and ecological models of the concept have been developed, and criticized. Recent attention has focused more on the political and institutional dimensions of the problem.

Citing this article:
Holland, Alan. Sustainability, 2000, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S100-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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