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The most famous definition of sustainable development is a “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In other words, this kind of development does not put too much pressure on the resources of the earth. Another word the latter is having a low ecological footprint.

The United Nations (UN) aim to advocate for a sustainable development across the globe. In fact, this is an overarching principle in all of the UNs work. This ambition led to the Sustainable Development Goals from 2015, the so called SDGs. 193 out of 195 countries (all the UN members) work towards these goals. More so, they are 17 in total. For example they address issues such as goal 13, climate action, and goal 5, gender equality.

The social, the environment and the economy

A sustainable development has 3 main parts: the social, the environment and the economy. This means that any kind of sustainable project needs to consider these 3 cornerstones. Something that is a hard balance to achieve. Yet, many initiatives across the globe strive for it, such as the SDGs. Furthermore, one can split up the SDGs into five guiding categories:  humanbeings, planet earth, wellbeing, peace and partnership. The last two (peace and partnership) are relatively new aspects of  sustainability work.

Criticism against sustainable development

A development that is sustainable and the work to achieve the SDGs have been subject to some criticism. The main critique has to do with the definition of the concept. This is because the broad definition makes it easier for people to call an effort sustainable, even if it isn’t. In other words, different initiatives can be called sustainable without for example having “the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” in mind.

More so, many agendas or businesses present themselves as sustainable without a balance between the social, the environment and the economy. The word “sustainable” can be used as a trick to get the approval or attention of the masses. An example of this is a company that presents its production as sustainable, even though it has negative effects on social and/or environmental parts of a society. When this happens, it is called green washing.


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