What is Sustainable Development?

What is Sustainable Development?

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Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content
Updated on Oct 17, 2023 13:54 IST

The article covers the concept of sustainable development, its types, goals, and importance.


Sustainable Development strives to satisfy the needs of present generations without compromising the possibilities of future generations. It is a method designed for the long term, with progressive benefits, to be carried out permanently.

Sustainable Development is focused solely on natural resources and the environment, trying to preserve, conserve and protect them. It involves thinking about the immediate future of the natural environment, aiming not to affect future generations but to benefit current society.

Its social, economic, and environmental dimensions aim to achieve three main objectives:

  • A growth that takes into account the welfare and needs of present generations.
  • A growth that respects the environment.
  • A fair growth that does not sacrifice the rights of future generations

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Types of Sustainability

Sustainability seeks to generate environments in which there is balance in three fundamental aspects:

Economic sustainability. It seeks economic growth without negatively impacting the environment and, in many cases, uses methods to impact the natural and social environment positively. It involves factors such as obtaining sustainable, safe, and continuous energy, designing a manufacturing model that includes recycling and using non-polluting materials, and the responsible use of resources.

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Environmental sustainability. It seeks to conserve the environment and promotes practices that reduce human activities’ impact on ecosystems. Environmental sustainability pursues the care and responsible use of resources, water saving, and renewable energy, among others.

Social Sustainability. It seeks the human development of individuals and groups that are part of society. This implies practices that promote equality and respect for the rights of all citizens.

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Characteristics of Sustainable Development

Sustainable development can be understood from three different and complementary perspectives: the economic, the social, and the ecological. In these three areas, changes are sought to achieve an optimal result.

This is often represented by a schematic of intersections or a Venn diagram (image), from which three possible intersections are obtained:

  • Addressing only the social and economic aspects leads to equitable development schemes but nothing ecological.
  • Addressing only the economic and the ecological leads to viable development schemes, but nothing social.
  • Addressing only the ecological and social aspects leads to bearable development schemes but is economically unviable.

Only by attending to the three aspects at the same time can sustainable development be achieved:

  • Satisfy the population’s social needs, considering aspects such as food, clothing, housing, and work.
  • Have economic and technological processes that allow financial support over time.
  • Do not produce significant ecological alterations but look for practices that are friendly to the natural environment.

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Objectives of Sustainable Development

The sustainable development objectives are principles formulated in 2015 by the United Nations Organization. Through these objectives, it seeks to: achieve a development model that does not affect the environment, promotes peace, equality, and respect for human rights, and defends and conserves the planet’s biodiversity.

Also read: Importance of Sustainable Development and Its Objectives

Here are the sustainable development objectives –

End of poverty

It implies goals such as eliminating extreme poverty, reducing relative poverty, and guaranteeing the world’s population access to basic needs.

Zero hunger

It implies goals such as eliminating undernutrition and malnutrition, increasing investment in the agricultural area, and promoting sustainable practices that improve yields. 

Health and wellness

It implies goals like guaranteeing the entire population’s access to the health system and medicines and combating problems such as infant mortality, infections, and drug abuse.

Quality education

It guarantees access to the educational system for all worldwide.

Gender equality

It implies goals such as ending the gender gaps in different areas (such as work, education, social, and family) and promoting equal opportunities.

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Clean water and sanitation

It seeks to access drinking water for the entire world population and protect this resource.

Affordable and non-polluting energy

It seeks to develop sustainable energies accessible to the entire population.

Decent work and economic growth

It seeks to focus on economic growth, eradicate unemployment and encourage the development of small and medium-sized companies.

Industry, innovation, and infrastructure

To achieve industrial development with sustainable practices and increase scientific research, technology development, and internet access.

Reduction of inequalities

To guarantee equal opportunities for the entire population and reduce income gaps between individuals and countries.

Sustainable Cities and Communities

It implies goals such as the care of heritage, the development of sustainable mobility, sustainable construction and building, access to green areas, and reducing environmental impact.

Responsible production and consumption

It involves responsible use of resources, reuse and recycling, and waste management.

Climate action

To raise awareness about climate change and adopt practices to reduce its impact.

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Submarine life

It implies goals such as conservation and care of marine spaces and coasts, reducing illegal fishing, and reducing water pollution.

Life of terrestrial ecosystems

It involves the conservation of terrestrial ecosystems, their care, and the management of resources.

Peace, justice, and solid institutions

It implies goals such as reducing violence and corruption, strengthening institutions, and providing access to justice.

Alliances to achieve the objectives

It seeks universal cooperation to fulfill the objectives of sustainable development.

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Examples of Sustainable Development

Some examples of the application of sustainability criteria are:

Sustainable agriculture: Food production for the growing human population primarily sustains agricultural work. In this process, finding techniques and ways to produce ecologically friendly food that positively impacts the social environment is necessary. Some sustainable agricultural practices include: 

  • Using planned irrigation that does not waste water resources
  • Reducing the use of certain fertilizers or pesticides that hurt the ecosystem
  • Promoting crop rotation so as not to deplete soil nutrients through monoculture

Sustainable fashion: The fashion industry seeks to turn towards the development of more sustainable production. This implies practices such as making garments using only natural fibres (from organic farming) to avoid synthetic textiles that take time to biodegrade and pollute. In addition, slow fashion stands out, which seeks to create lasting products and goes against fast fashion.

Sustainable transportation: Transportation is one of the leading causes of air pollution since burning fossil fuels generate a tremendous environmental impact. This type of sustainable mobility promotes quality public transport and the possibility of electrifying vehicles or replacing them with non-polluting and healthier options, such as bicycles.

Sustainable energy: The energy industry constantly looks out for ways to obtain sustainable energy that is safe, reliable, and efficient. Some sustainable energy forms are renewable, such as wind, hydroelectric or solar.

What Does Sustainable Development Mean For Companies?

Once the concept of sustainable development is understood, it can be deciphered that business sustainability is the way to adopt strategies that meet the needs of the company and its stakeholders while protecting the natural, social and economic resources necessary for the future. Sustainable companies have stringent criteria for social responsibility and environmental ethics.

The sustainable development of a company is about ensuring that it can continue to function in 5, 10, or 50 years. This includes all factors, from ensuring its raw material gives optimal use to its social and economic capital. At this point, a company that is self-sufficient in producing and processing without harming the environment or society dramatically influences how resilient an organization can be.

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About the Author
Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content

Rashmi is a postgraduate in Biotechnology with a flair for research-oriented work and has an experience of over 13 years in content creation and social media handling. She has a diversified writing portfolio and aim... Read Full Bio


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