Archive for the Category ◊ A General Definition to Sustainability ◊

• Monday, May 10th, 2010


When it comes to sustainability, the most important issue is its definition . Therefore, at the beginning it is remarkable to mention some of the worldwide accepted definitions of sustainability over the last few decades:

●   A sustainable development “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs ”  The Bruntland Report (WCED, 1987, p8)

●   sustainability is “improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems”  (IUCN, WWF and UNEP, 1991)

●   A sustainable society is “one that can persist over generations, one that is far-seeing enough, flexible enough, and wise enough, not to undermine either its physical or its social systems of support.” Meadows et al (1972)

To priorities and manage each development, at least in Europe, it has been agreed to define and rank the capitals of a society as following:

  1. Natural
  2. Human
  3. Social
  4. Manufactured       (Ekins et al, 1992)

and fifth capital – financial (Forum for the Future, see Parkin et al, 2003)

As we can see finance is the fifth capital according to ‘Forum for the Future’ if it is to be called a capital in a society. However; this is not always the case worldwide. Unfortunately, in some countries and societies finance is considered to be one of the main priorities if not the first priority and this has leaded the world to a disastrous position over the last few decades. Problems such as global warming, acid rains, ozone depletion, smogs, and etc. appear and endanger the other four main capitals of a society or the world in general.

On the other hand today’s societies are expected to think wider and, as a main aspect of sustainability, consider the whole life cycle assessment (LSA) of the alternatives when building a project. This means studying in detail the stages of making, using and disposing of a product before choosing the option. Stages which start from extraction of raw materials needed for the project to design, formulation, specification, processing, manufacturing, assembly, construction, packaging, use, maintenance, refurbishment, re-using and finally recycling and disposal1. A sustainable construction is the one that has taken all these stages into account, before the construction starts, to have the least effect on the environment and biodiversity as well as the capitals that have been eluded earlier.