Sustainable development

Sustainable development is the translation of the English term sustainable development. It describes a development that serves the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their needs ( Shortened definition in the Brundtland Report ). The origin of the idea lies in the concept of sustainability, which first appeared in the German forestry. Today, the term refers generally to social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability and was inducted into the implemented at international and supranational level political and scientific discussions.

  • 4.1 First Implementation
  • 4.2 policy
  • 5.1 Constitutional Law
  • 5.2 Economics
  • 5.3 Science

Conceptual history

The concept of sustainability is described here, is originally in forestry ( see Sustainability (Forestry) ) detectable and was first mentioned by Hans Carl von Carlowitz in relation to forest management in 1713. In the overall economy, the term " sustainability " is transmitted for the first time in 1952. In the principles of the Inter-Parliamentary Working Group company for natural economy, it says: "With the self-renewing resources a natural modern economy must be operated so that they are used according to the principle of sustainability also of future generations, for meeting the needs of numerically increasing humanity can. "

The term was later than sustainability input in international trade circles.

In the composition sustainable development - and thus also in the new meaning - the term first appeared in the published 1980 World Conservation Strategy and the Global 2000 Study (Time to Act 1981, pp. 137 ff ) on.

Apart from the few previous uses which naturally form an appropriate basis, today's meaning of the term sustainable development its main origins in the Brundtland definition of 1987. Represents you in a certain sense a diplomatic compromise or consensus formula represents the to bring often given target conflicts between environmental protection and development (economic growth, especially in the countries of the South) in line. Since that time, the term has gained popularity and has been charged by its use in politics, science, business and civil society with different meanings. An essential change has already been implemented by a new focus on the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. The concept was thereby expanded its discursive use a primarily technocratic concept, the solution attempts of the environmental problems are mainly due to technology or scientific rationalities. Thus, the social component is still suppressed compared to the Brundtland Report. ( Dingler, 2003) In addition, already existing works which discuss the development of the importance of sustainable development and sustainability for the different parts of our society (politics, science, business, ... ) in detail and show empirically. ( Otto, 2007)

Key concepts of sustainable development

The Brundtland Report calls essentially two key concepts for the implementation and understanding of sustainable development and sustainability of central importance:

" Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs can not be satisfied. Two key concepts are important:

  • The concept of "needs", in particular the basic needs of the poorest people in the world who should have the overwhelming priority; and
  • The idea of " limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs. "

English original:

" Sustainable development is development meets the needs did of the present without Compromising the ability of future generations to meet Their Own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

  • The concept of, needs ', in Particular the essential needs of the world 's poor, to whichover riding priority Should Be givenName; and
  • The idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment 's ability to meet present and future needs ( Brundtland ). "

Guiding principle of the 21st century (United Nations)

With the Earth Summit (UNCED ) from 3 to 14 June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro sustainability and sustainable development as a normative, international guiding principle of the international community, the world economy, global civil society and the policy was recognized and the basic principle of the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 anchored. In the center of the Earth Summit were in principle all areas of life, especially the reorientation of production and consumption towards sustainability in industrialized countries, and the fight against poverty in developing countries.

Was concretized the concept of sustainability in the documents of the Rio - Johannesburg process such as Agenda 21, the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol and the Johannesburg Plan of Action. At the local level, the term has become known by the movement of Local Agenda 21. Scientifically, the sustainability science deals with the whole complex of sustainability and sustainable development.

Viewed broadly, sustainability is in contrast to short-term waste and looting of resources, and refers to a gentle, responsible use of resources, which is also oriented towards future developments and generations. Very important for the mindset of the text was the limits to growth of international scientific institution, the Club of Rome.

Recent Developments

Since the World Summit on Sustainable Development ( Johannesburg, 2002), a paradigm shift towards sustainability strategy will be completed, that is, the emphasis is on concepts and methods for achieving the sustainability goals. In addition, the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations integral part of the implementation were. The gap between word and deed is mainly due to lack of funding, for the realization of these goals would have to 2015 980 billion U.S. dollars will be provided in addition. These funds enable the Global Marshall Plan Initiative has prescribed.

In Johannesburg it was also decided to enhance the educational efforts for implementing sustainable development concepts. Since 1 January 2005, there is therefore a " UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development". Environmental education and global learning should contribute to better than before to anchor thoughts and strategies for sustainable development in society.

Also grab various sciences, such as the earth sciences, on the discussion. Here is for example the Research Centre to call for the right of Sustainable Development at the University of Bayreuth. The variety of initiatives is very high, which is called methods with the aim of implementation of sustainability goals as sustainability strategies.

Translation variants of "sustainable development "

For the concept of sustainable development is available in the German language over 70 translation versions. In addition to " sustainable development " is another strong common translation variant " sustainable development" and " sustainability " for sustainability. This term was in 1995 with the study Sustainable Germany. Introduced a contribution to global sustainable development of the Wuppertal Institute.

More translation variants, but rarely in use are: sustainable development ( Brundtland Commission ), future continuous development ( ICLEI ), future-oriented development ( Commission of Inquiry globalization of the German Bundestag ), through tough Development ( Erhard Eppler ) or maintainable development ( Meadows )

An example of practical translation problems, the use of the term sustainable in the Maastricht Treaty on European Union. In the Maastricht Treaty, the Community undertook in Article 2 of the Treaty, " sustainable and non -inflationary growth respecting the environment " and bring in the English version a sustainable and non- inflationary growth respecting the environment. In the German translation of this reference to the concept of sustainable development is far less clear. This appeared in the German text of the contract only in Article 130u of the Treaty to which regulates the development cooperation. In the English version of the text it is said, however, both in Article 2 of the EC Treaty and in Article 130u of the EC Treaty sustainable. Also in Article B of the Maastricht Treaty is again in the English text of an economic and social progress Which is balanced and sustainable, the speech while it " balanced and sustainable economic and social progress " is the German text. On three different translations of the term sustainable is only the Greek version except the German version of the treaty.

Popularization of the term

Uses of " sustainable" as an adjective

Often we find terms such as sustainable urban development, sustainable agriculture, sustainable tourism, sustainable growth. This means that the object, such as urban development is understood in the sense of the Brundtland definition and the Rio -Johannesburg process.

Parallel use of the term in its popular meaning and the sense discussed here

Correspond to the meaning of the terms sustainable and sustainability in the here described the meaning of " permanently maintainable " may indeed the " etymologically original (s) literal sense of sustainability " (Konrad Ott of the Advisory Council on the Environment ), but does not coincide with the long time in the colloquial common meaning of the terms ( sustainable: " strongly impacting on longer time "; sustainability: " an extended period lasting effect ").

Whether it is sustainable as a German translation for the undoubtedly difficult adequately to transfer English terms on the use of concepts and however sustainability is now actually a kind of conscious recourse to an etymologically original, slurred in colloquial language over the centuries and in a 200 year-old text again is detectable significance, or whether we have not rather do it with a kind of " nachgeschobener legitimacy " for the invention of a translational makeshift, is unlikely to be detectable. Regardless of this, we meet here on the conscious attempt to establish a new for the vast majority of speaker meaning for a household word.

Due to the frequency of use of the term, particularly in the media today exist in the speaker awareness both meanings in parallel. The suspicion is that because of this popularity, the validity of the concept has been greatly reduced and often leads to a blurring and a confusion of the two meanings. The term is therefore now often without an actual understanding of his backgrounds used ( " sustainable price performance of equities ", " sustainable development climate "). Often we actually mean permanent or lasting.

German discussion

By 1995, there were few centers in the sustainability debate in Germany. Most important centers were in the early days, among other things, the Wuppertal Institute, headed by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and the NGO Forum on Environment and Development in Bonn (NGOs). Only in 1994 the documents of the Rio Earth Summit, such as the Agenda 21 in German language were available. This set also includes a broader implementation discussion. A today after-effects discussion contribution came from the created Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy from Wuppertal in 1996 published study Sustainable Germany.

The first realization of

The first major pilot project to implement the sustainability and the study "Sustainable Germany " was excellent by the Federal President Roman Herzog national project that Altmühtal Agenda 21 project ( 1995-1998) of the Catholic University of Eichstätt- Ingolstadt, where in 25 project areas over 100 measures were conducted (). The first Local Agenda 21 processes started in which the partly local in the development of sustainability strategies have been prepared and approved.


As a result, the political discussion was led by several study commissions of the German Parliament and appointed by the Council for Sustainable Development on 21 February 2001. At the annual conferences of the Council current issues surrounding the term sustainability in events (called " opinion places " ) are discussed. In taking place in June 2011 conference opinion places to the regions were as an example: economics, values ​​, consumption, change, and global policy on the agenda.

In Germany, it came after the 1998 election on 27 September 1998 a change of government; the first red-green coalition at the federal level took over the government (until the 2005 federal election on 18 September 2005 ) and Jürgen Trittin was Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. This changed environmental policy considerably; for example, the government in June 2000 in the so-called nuclear consensus defined by means of a residual current quantities by nuclear phase.

In the 2005 ruling until 2009 grand coalition ( black, red, Cabinet Merkel I) the SPD presented the Federal Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Since the 2009 federal election rules a black-yellow coalition (Cabinet Merkel II); here, the CDU the Federal Environment Minister.

The Federal Statistical Office created regularly - every two years - a report entitled Sustainable Development in Germany. This describes the untenable position in Germany and the sustainability policy through sustainability indicators.

International Development

Constitutional Law

Individual states have incorporated sustainable development as a national objective in their constitution. This applies to the Swiss Federal Constitution ( Art. 2) since 1999, and the constitutions of Bhutan (see gross national happiness ), Ecuador and Bolivia (see buen vivir ).

Even in the basic treaty of the European Union 's sustainable development since 2009, one of the objectives, competes there but with potentially conflicting objectives such as the commitment to economic growth.


At the global level support including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development ( WBCSD) company is to make their activities more sustainable and take into account social and environmental aspects more. In addition, an attempt is made in different sectors of the economy, an economy which is in line with the principles of sustainable development to take up and discuss. This includes, for example, the construction and paper industry, logistics and transport sector green logistics as well as the electronics industry, on which the article Green IT comes in closer. By sustainability management is viewed increasingly integrated management of social, economic and ecological aspects at the level of a company. Meanwhile, the financial industry has discovered the benefits of investments in sustainable investments.


In science, a variety of work areas developed after a fairly lengthy period from 1997. They now range from the micro-economic view of " environmental protection " on functional relationships such as " sustainable mobility", " sustainable consumption " or " sustainable investment " to considerations of global contexts such as " global sustainability and the WTO " and similar development policy.

Since 2001 there is also a Sustainability Science (Sustainability Science).