SustainableThis year, 190 world leaders committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) endorsed by the U.N. to help eradicate poverty in a maintainable manner.

The goals focus on reducing hunger and inequality as well as increasing good health, quality education and economic growth around the globe. All of this must be done sustainably. But what exactly does sustainable mean?

The word sustainable or sustainability is used more than 75 times in the SDGs and has really become a buzzword among ecologists, researchers and policy makers.

Douglas Beal, who is the managing director of the Boston Consulting group, points out that sustainability was first used in the business world and really just means “longevity—something that can continue.”

The programs and public policies developed and instilled to accomplish the standards set through the SDGs must be able to be maintained long term in order to make prolonged effective progress.

While the SDGs are a recent set of targets, sustainable development is not a new goal.

The concept first appeared during the World Commission on Environment and Development’s report Our Common Future in which they stated that sustainable development is that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

So while we need to feed people through agriculture in order to end hunger and starvation, we must also ensure that we do not deplete natural resources in the process.

These conflicts occur in almost every aspect of our social, political, economic and environmental spheres, which is why development goals must balance meeting our current needs while still guaranteeing that we can continue to meet those needs in the future.

Some of the ways we can work to avoid depletion is through innovations that create renewable and clean energy. Natural resources are limited; they take far more time to be replenished than the amount provided by how fast we need them. Therefore, part of the sustainable aspect of our future will need to include renewable energy.

Sustainability is more than a noble goal or a catchy buzzword, it is a requirement for creating development that not only lasts but also improves our global policies and thereby our future.

Brittney Dimond

Sources: World Bank, Global Giving, NPR
Photo: Flickr