Text Size

Sustainability: A question of balance


It is estimated that we use about 40% more resources every year than we can put back and that needs to change.

Sustainability and sustainable development focusses1 on balancing that fine line between competing needs - our need to move forward technologically and economically, and the needs to protect the environments in which we and others live.

Sustainability is not just about the environment it's also about our health as a society in ensuring that no people or areas of life suffer as a result of environmental legislation, and it's also about examining the longer-term effects of the actions humanity takes and asking questions about how it may be improved.

In 2005, the World Summit on Social Development2 identified three core areas that contribute to the philosophy and social science of sustainable development. These “pillars” 3in many national standards and certification schemes, form the backbone of tackling the core areas that the world now faces. The Brundtland Commission 4described it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". We must consider the future then, in making our decisions about the present.

Economic Development

Economic development is about giving people what they want without compromising quality of life, especially in the developing world, and reducing the financial burden and “red tape” of doing the right thing.

Social Development

The biggest hot topic for many people right now is sustainable housing and how we can better build the homes we live in from sustainable material. Education and knowledge sharing is part of the process to encourage people5 to participate in environmental sustainability and teaching them about the effects of environmental protection as well as warning of the dangers if we cannot achieve our goals.

Environmental Protection

Environmental protection defines how we should study and protect ecosystems, air quality, integrity and sustainability of our resources and focusing on the elements that place stress on the environment. It also concerns how technology will drive our greener future.

COP 266

The United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) held in Glasgow, opened on 31 October 2021 and closed on 12 November 2021. What is COP? Why is it important to every country in the world? What does it mean for elders? Read more

Feedback welcomed

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this article

Click here to submit your feedback

Published: May 2022

To be reviewed: May 2025


1Sustainable Development Goals | New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (mfat.govt.nz)
2United Nations World Summit 2005 — Global Issues
3What Is Sustainability and Why Is It Important? | EnvironmentalScience.org
4Brundtland Commission - Wikipedia
5People’s Report – New Zealand Sustainable Development Goals (sdg.org.nz)

6HOME - UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org)