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What is sustainability?

"Sustainability" is a concept that acknowledges the interconnectedness of social, environmental and economic concerns, and the need to achieve a better balance between the tree in order to ensure that future generations will survive and thrive on Earth.

This is sometimes referred to as the "triple bottom line"— People, profit and planet (or: Equity, Economy, Ecology).

"Sustainability" has become a leading framework shaping social responsibility, environmental protection and carbon mitigation efforts, amongst other initiatives, within corporations, governments, colleges and universities, nonprofits, and other sectors. 


Sustainability can be defined in a number of different (often complementary) ways. Foresight Prep encourages students to embrace the definition that best fits their own values, and future college and career goals. 

Some of our favorites:

Sustainability is a concept that begins with the acknowledgement that there is more than one kind of value in the world. The pursuit of a single type of value (e.g. economic) at the expense of others (e.g. social and environmental) causes an imbalance that can destabilize systems (e.g. climate) fundamental to life. Pursuing greater sustainability, therefore, is to strive to achieve a more resilient balance between social equity, economic profit, and environmental impact, that results in more vibrant systems and long-term human well-being. Sustainability is an action, not a thing; reliant on principles by which problems can be addressed, and more holistic prosperity achieved. While it is common to focus on three values (e.g. people, profit, planet), there are others often not incorporated.
—Peter Nicholson, Program Director, Foresight Prep @ Oberlin

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
—Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac (1949)

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs 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 which overriding priority should be given; 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.
—Our Common Future (a.k.a. Brundtland Report) (1987)

Sustainability provides a business strategy that offers opportunities to decrease costs, increase revenues, and drive innovation while simultaneously preserving natural resources, improving global stability, and enhancing the quality of life for all species on the planet.
—Lindsay James, former Vice President of Restorative Enterprise, InterFaceFLOR