Glossary term: Sustainability

The concept of sustainability relates to the maintenance and enhancement of environmental, social and economic resources, in order to meet the needs of current and future generations. The three components of sustainability are:

  1. Environmental sustainability - which requires that natural capital remains intact. This means that the source and sink functions of the environment should not be degraded. Therefore, the extraction of renewable resources should not exceed the rate at which they are renewed, and the absorptive capacity of the environment to assimilate wastes should not be exceeded. Furthermore, the extraction of non-renewable resources should be minimised and should not exceed agreed minimum strategic levels.
  2. Social sustainability - which requires that the cohesion of society and its ability to work towards common goals be maintained. Individual needs, such as those for health and well-being, nutrition, shelter, education and cultural expression should be met.
  3. Economic sustainability - which occurs when development, which moves towards social and environmental sustainability, is financially feasible.

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