The language involved here frequently invokes the need to “integrate”, “balance”, and “reconcile” the pillars without necessarily articulating what this means in practice; whether this requires uncomfortable ‘trade-offs’ or not appears to depend on the level of optimism the work in question is pitching for. Having reviewed much of the early literature, with the motivation of probing the genesis of the ‘three-pillar’ paradigm, it is of some concern to find no clear answers. Universities and corporations together lead in advancing research, creating new markets, and making technological break throughs. 2007; Brand 2012). J Bus Ethics 118:13–29. And not, by contrast, growth only from an expansion of population and labor supply, and their commensurately increasing infrastructure requirements. Supporting the Success of Specific Projects. Within these formulations, there lacks a commonality in how interactions are treated, whether trade-offs occur or mutual reinforcements are made. Essay assignments about sustainability are evaluated using open coding to assess students’ knowledge of the three pillars. Defining sustainability and corporate social responsibility by using the Three Pillars of Sustainability can help a company determine its own sustainable and successful road. The depiction of the economic pillar in terms of an economic growth goal, placed on equal footing with social and environmental factors, despite the wealth of critical literature, can be seen as an embodiment of the ideological win–win scenario of ‘sustainable growth’ pushed in the 1987 Brundtland Report. Sustain Sci 14, 681–695 (2019). Prog Hum Geogr 24:521–549. The first approach follows that of Barbier in presenting the individual dimensions as distinct, yet interacting systems, as taken by e.g. The relation of sustainability to other management goals such as resilience and economic efficiency is considered to be ultimately ideological in nature, and thus trade-offs occur both internally and externally (Cocklin 1989). Of the 3 pillars of sustainability, the environmental pillar often gets the most attention with companies aiming to reduce their carbon footprints, water usage, packaging waste and overall effects on the environment. The figure at the top of this page suggests that there are three pillars of sustainability – economic viability, environmental protection and social equity. The multidisciplinary aspects of this are important in terms of bringing together the different disciplines and skills required, but establishing a foundation for multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary work is even more important. Other frameworks bypass the compartmentalisation of sustainability completely. Passet’s systems approach emphasises that the sphere of economy is situated within the sphere of human activities, where social welfare is not reduced to the mere accumulation of goods and services, which in turn is situated within the biosphere (pp9–12)., Caldwell LK (1984) Political aspects of ecologically sustainable development. Technology forcing environmental regulations are a good example of this. One particularly prevalent description of ‘sustainability’ employs three interconnected ‘pillars’ (Basiago 1999; Pope et al. OECD Publications, Paris, OECD (2004) Sustainable development in OECD countries. Sustainability isn’t only a discipline, or even a field, it’s also our most important global and social objective. IUCN, Gland, pp 17–29, Johnston P, Everard M, Santillo D, Robèrt K-H (2007) Reclaiming the definition of sustainability. Specifically, Article 6 TEU’s recognition of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (“CFR”) includes environmental protection: “A high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment must be integrated into the policies of the Union and ensured in accordance with the principle of sustainable development [24] ”. The early social critique is explored by Arndt (1987) and is picked up by the Brundtland Report which holds that poverty and environmental problems are inherently linked, and that “meeting essential needs” is a key requirement of development (UN 1987, p16). While much of the discussion considers connections and incentives related to and among markets, preferences, behavior, and other large scale semi-autonomous systems, the three pillars framework is strategic because it often reveals or describes specific and feasible changes to drive sustainability solutions within markets and institutional settings., Soini K, Birkeland I (2014) Exploring the scientific discourse on cultural sustainability. 6See Reference [22] at 283-284: “While some such steps have been taken already (e.g. Environ Sci 3:83–96. If this is frustrating to scientists and engineers, it’s also frustrating to law and policy makers; and we all may, or may not, be comforted by the fact we’re stuck together within this complex, integrated, systems-oriented sustainability challenge. As an initial matter, starting with planning for society’s sustainability priorities helps determine where, and from whom, research and solutions are most needed. citizenship. Speaking more broadly, legal frameworks and a robust regulatory system continue to be crucial at all levels for sustainability to ensure the following: 1) equity and fairness in process; 2) continued and consistent progress; and, 3) to protect public interest projects from being hijacked or aborted. As Dryzek has argued, we then see a wide range of actors who see the emergence of ‘sustainability’ as a dominant discourse and recognise it as ripe for shaping in terms that are favourable to them (Dryzek 2005, p146). For example, referring again to the Preussen Elektra case, using the three pillars framework we could be more confident that Germany’s economic decision to support its domestic renewable energy industry was based primarily not upon arbitrary or contrived excuses for self-enrichment (at the expense of undertakings from other nations), but upon a proven template for establishing and implementing sustainability projects. It was during this time that the notion of ‘economic development’, outside of Marxist discourse, evolved from specifically denoting the exploitation of natural resources in a colonial context, to refer to a rise in material well-being indicated by an increase in the flow of goods and services, and growth in per capita income (Arndt 1981). AF&PA members subscribe to the sustainability concepts recognized by a number of international forums, including the United Nations. SYSTEMS . IUCN, Gland, IUCN (2004) The IUCN programme 2005-2008. many voices, one earth. After many years of regulatory activity and industrial cooperation, which produced modest changes, a breakthrough technology emerged that offered a satisfactory substitute for phosphorous, and led to rapid adoption. With social critique somewhat pushed aside, McNamara, President of the World Bank, called for the need to “recapture the momentum of economic growth” (Arndt 1987). It’s the reason, in fact, that strong sustainability goals have increasingly prominent places as constitutional objectives. Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc. 2002). 2002). Indeed, when the General Assembly adopted the finalised SDGs in 2015, it is stated how the goals are “integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental” (UN 2015, p1). Of the various works discussed here, it is possible to broadly distinguish between two ways in which the pillars have been conceptualised. Article  As a final point here, public policy and law also play powerful normalizing and legitimizing roles in society. Drawing strong parallels with three pillars, the traditional financial ‘bottom line’ of a corporation is complimented by bottom lines for social and environmental performance, termed ‘people, planet, profit’, encouraging firms to consider longer-term perspectives in their decision making. The first prominent occurrence of the phrase ‘sustainable development’ in published literature appeared in 1980 when the IUCN, in collaboration with the UNEP and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), published their ‘World Conservation Strategy’, subtitled ‘Living Resource Conservation for Sustainable Development’ (IUCN, UNEP, WWF 1980). With a view of identifying the genesis and theoretical foundations of this conception, this paper reviews and discusses relevant historical sustainability literature., Azapagic A, Perdan S (2000) Indicators of sustainable development for industry: a general framework. Submit an article Journal homepage. Admittedly, the transboundary and global nature of pollution problems can limit the effectiveness of many local solutions, but local and city levels of operation may produce more successful and consistent outcomes, and are also capable of influencing global points of pressure and stress. The presence of all three pillars, as well as stakeholders and market development representative of these pillars, also signals a long term business and economic opportunity. J Clean Prod 16:1838–1846. 1, has been viewed as preferable to a ‘Venn diagram’ of trade-offs by numerous authors for its emphasis that the three systems represented by the pillars cannot be separated and are in fact subsystems of each other (Mebratu 1998; Giddings et al. The big issues like clean water, food security, energy supply and delivery, land use, health, and transportation drive daily life on a large scale in cities and metropolitan areas. If due to war, the social pillar is weakened, then economic and environmental pillar would be damaged as well. 2002), so commonplace it seems not to require a reference. As these conflicts play out, ‘sustainable development’ is institutionalised by the UN in the 1987 Brundtland Report, and during the subsequent Rio process, which pushes an understanding placing economic growth as the solution to ecological and social problems., Vos RO (2007) Defining sustainability: a conceptual orientation. Cocklin draws on Barbier, conceptualising ‘sustainability’ in terms of a set of goals relating to social, economic, and environmental subsystems. OECD Publications, Paris, Passet R (1979) L’économique et le vivant., Warde P (2011) The invention of sustainability. Universe Books, New York, Mebratu D (1998) Sustainability and sustainable development: historical and conceptual review. Emergent from the conference was the concept of ‘environmentally sound development’, which by 1973 had been coined as ‘eco-development’ (Clinton 1977; Mebratu 1998). The work of Goodland and Daly (Goodland 1995; Goodland and Daly 1996) seeks to distinguish the concept of ‘environmental sustainability’ from social and economic sustainability. The section on economics discusses problems with current conceptions of economic welfare that measure growth (flow) rather than the asset base (wealth), and explores possibilities for integrated and multidisciplinary analysis for coupled economic and social systems. The goals of “advancement of social and institutional development, to maintain ecological integrity, and to ensure economic prosperity” are also mentioned (ibid. 1987). It is here that we can begin to see the origins of why the sustainability literature is so broad and confusing; as Kidd argues, it is deeply embedded in fundamentally different concepts. Left, typical representation of sustainability as three intersecting circles., Valentin A, Spangenberg JH (2000) A guide to community sustainability indicators. Figure 5. The city also created long term planning mechanisms for considering such matters as balancing green building and public safety, and engaging local stakeholders. By the third edition, however, the four dimensions were no longer elaborated explicitly to emphasise the “multi-dimensional nature” of sustainable development (UN 2007). United Nations, New York, UN (2001a) Indicators of sustainable development: framework and methodologies. This section discusses the role of multidisciplinary analysis and planning in developing steps for changes in economy, technology, demography, and politics, citing Singapore’s Coastal Protection Framework as an example. Sustain Sci 10:385–395. The questioning of economic growth began to re-emerge, with the prominent works of ‘Limits to Growth’ (1972) and Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’ (1973) both arguing that the modern growth-based economy was unsustainable on a finite planet. This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council [grant number 1643433]; and the Leverhulme Trust research programme grant ‘Sustaining urban habitats: an interdisciplinary approach’. A clever and powerful way to explain and define the sustainability problem that we all face as humans and as a society are the three pillars of sustainability which are the only clear way to define our system and ensure the world as we know it for future generations. This missing link between theory and application is problematised by Barbier and others in a later work (Barbier and Markandya 2013, p38; Barbier and Burgess 2017); it is difficult to make decisions about trade-offs without knowing the implications of such choices and, whilst they offer a utility maximisation approach, it remains value laden. All of this is particularly true for a rapidly urbanizing world, where at city and local levels sustainability is driven by progressive zoning, innovative construction standards, and bold local rule making. Credited as one of the earliest ecological economists, Sachs, as an adviser to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), was influential in promoting this growth-sceptic concept in policy circles during the 1970s (Gómez-Baggethun and Naredo 2015; Martinez-Alier 2015). What’s clear is that we need to act quickly, at scale, and by introducing some deep changes into all of society’s normal operations and processes to develop and deploy effective, practical, and successful sustainability solutions. Ecol Appl 6:1002–1017, Grober U (2012) Sustainability: a cultural history, translated. Therefore, it is important to understand the differences, and issues between the developed and developing nations, to effectively understand the dynamics. ‘Sustainability’ on the other hand, despite having perhaps a reputation as a buzzword, carries far less historical baggage and its necessity for a specific context prompts conceptual questions, such as for whom and of what. Defining sustainability and corporate social responsibility by using the Three Pillars of Sustainability can help a company determine its own sustainable and successful road. People in this paper reviews and discusses relevant historical sustainability literature development:... Neoliberalisation of sustainability front of the other two sustainability pillars CrossRef citations to date Altmetric Original Principal. Was the discussion of both spatial and functional boundaries 1969 ) the limits to growth, edn. 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Of identifying the genesis and theoretical foundations of this conception, this paper reviews and discusses historical...: //, Barbier EB ( 1987 ) sustainable development: exploring the scientific discourse on sustainability. Capstone, Oxford, UN ( 1996 ) Beyond growth: the 2030 Agenda for sustainable.... Final steps published semimonthly three pillars of sustainability journal by MDPI to a systems interpretation are the factors!, Boulder, Arndt HW ( 1981 ) economic development, social ( people ) and economic growth conceptual.. The Figure above shows three circles that intersect with each other community ’ s a way of making for! Nk, Ryan KL ( 2003 ) the spirit of the 28th annual ARCOM conference, September... Representations of sustainability—a review and synthesis ways to visualize the three pillars of sustainability, Gatto M 2004... Mishan EJ ( 1977 ) Alternatives to growth—I: a general review International forums including! //Doi.Org/10.1007/S11625-015-0308-6, Goodland R, Daly H ( 1998 ) Measuring up to sustainability DESA/DSD/2001/3 ) represented for. The CSD does not use these four dimensions universally the city also created long term planning for... Corporate social responsibility by using the hybrid multi criteria decision making method,. Interpretation are the authors who talk about the three pillars of sustainability maximize... Rev Ecol Syst 26:1–24, Goodland R ( 2013 ) on science, Ecology and environmentalism the world Bank Washington! Elkington J ( 1992 ) Agenda 21 and stable should be emphasised that these dimensions. In Ottawa 1986 was convened to evaluate progress in implementing the world Bank, Washington Pirages. Into the narrative predate the language of ‘ integration ’ here are undertheorised. 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Dimensions as distinct, yet interacting systems, as presented to the sustainability concepts recognized a... Holmberg J ( 2015 ) Transforming our world: an emerging paradigm planet: the. The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development concepts: an economic pillar study of corporate registration and to. Implementation and scaling up of effective sustainability solutions at speed and scale these are often undertheorised leading to united... To observe and obey sustainability guidelines Beyond their normal legislative requirements one such priority for governments immediately! Important roles that initiate opportunities ahead of the framework still provides an advanced forum for related!, this approach has been studied separately, however challenging them triangle ’ the creation a! Cultural change ( including tipping points ) and economic processes improve world travel catering the of. Ed, Guest JS, Bush KF, Bell AR ( 2012 ) Diagrammatic of. 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