Skip to content

Definition of sustainability – what is sustainable?


«Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

This is probably the most broadly accepted definition of sustainability developed in 1987, by the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission). Instead of sustainability, often terms like sustainable development, sustainable prosperity or sustainable genuine progress are used. They more or less all mean the same as defined above. Details can be found e.g. in Wikipedia .

The Natural Step Framework's definition of sustainability includes four system conditions (scientific principles) that lead to a sustainable society. These conditions, that must be met in order to have a sustainable society, are as listed below.

In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing:

  • concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust;
  • concentrations of substances produced by society;
  • degradation by physical means and, in that society
  • the ability for humans to meet their needs is not systematically undermined.


Referring to the basic rights of existence («all beings have the equal right to live on the earth, to develop themselves and carry out their tasks»),

a sustainable living can also be defined as a life where the basic rights of existence are respected.

In this philosophy, the Earth is regarded as a being and not as „matter". Therefore when the basic rights of existence are followed, the above mentioned conditions for sustainablity are all automatically fulfilled.

Sustainability follows automatically and imperatively from respecting the basic rights of existence. In the discussion of this cosmic law , we have seen that the more consistently a human being „lives" the basic rights of existence, the closer he comes to his objective of perpetual harmony and peace within himself and his environment. Therefore it is also possible to conclude:

Only through a sustainable living it is possible to reach the highest of all human goals, to permanently be able to experience inner peace, happiness and harmony (self-realization).


Ξbasic rights of existence | Sustainability