The intent of this page is to provide examples of a few definitions of ‘sustainability’ from among the hundreds, or rather thousands of definitions ‘out there’.  Among them are a very small number which are widely accepted.

There are many and varied perspectives of what comprises ‘sustainability’.

Many are context specific.

They cover a wide spectrum from ‘weak’ to ‘strong’ sustainability. For more about this visit or

And there is of course much debate!  So, for your elucidation, rumination, education, debate, amusement (perhaps), and perhaps much more here are a few which have been ‘pulled off’ the web for you to make of it what you will.  The sequence is random!

Should you have others which you think could usefully be added to he list send an eMail to Ray.

•   “Sustainability is the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely.”

•   “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”

•   “…. there have been many variations and extensions on this basic definition. Many argue that sustainability has been hijacked and twisted to suit government and business that really want to continue with business as usual.  The quotes below will provide some ideas on what constitutes sustainable development and sustainability.”

•   Among the many ways that sustainability has been defined, the simplest and most fundamental is: “the ability to sustain” or, put another way, “the capacity to endure.”

•   “If an activity is said to be sustainable, it should be able to continue forever.”

•   ….. sustainability is defined as:  “the physical development and institutional operating practices that meet the needs of present users without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, particularly with regard to use and waste of natural resources. Sustainable practices support ecological, human, and economic health and vitality. Sustainability presumes that resources are finite, and should be used conservatively and wisely with a view to long-term priorities and consequences of the ways in which resources are used.” In simplest terms, sustainability is about our children and our grandchildren, and the world we will leave them.

•   ….. sustainable urban development: “Improving the quality of life in a city, including ecological, cultural, political, institutional, social and economic components without leaving a burden on the future generations. A burden which is the result of a reduced natural capital and an excessive local debt. Our aim is that the flow principle, that is based on an equilibrium of material and energy and also financial input/output, plays a crucial role in all future decisions upon the development of urban areas.”

•   “Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy. A key aspect is respect for the people who call the location home, the culture and customs of the area, and the socio-economic system. While sustainable tourism is sometimes confused with ecotourism, ecotourism is actually only one aspect of sustainable tourism.”

“Sustainable development” is also difficult to define. As with other broadly similar terminologies it is continually evolving, compounding the difficulty. One of the original descriptions of “sustainable development” is credited to the Brundtland Commission: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987, p 43).


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