The sustainable development is a new concept of economic growth, thought immediately with a view to long-term and integrates the constraints the environment and the functioning of society. As defined in the report of World Commission on Environment and Development of the United Nations, said Brundtland Report, where this term first appeared in 1987, sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
This notion has emerged as a result of the progressive awareness, since the 1970s, of the ecological finiteness of the Earth, linked to the planetary limits in the long term.
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD; also known as Rio 2012) was the third international conference on sustainable development, which aimed at reconciling the economic and environmental goals of the global community. An outcome of this conference was the development of the Sustainable Development Goals that aim to promote sustainable progress and eliminate inequalities around the world. However, few nations met the World Wide Fund for Nature’s definition of sustainable development criteria established in 2006. Although some nations are more developed than others, all nations are constantly developing because each nation struggles with perpetuating disparities, inequalities and unequal access to fundamental rights and freedoms.
In 2007 a report for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated: “While much discussion and effort has gone into sustainability indicators, none of the resulting systems clearly tells us whether our society is sustainable. At best, they can tell us that we are heading in the wrong direction, or that our current activities are not sustainable. More often, they simply draw our attention to the existence of problems, doing little to tell us the origin of those problems and nothing to tell us how to solve them.” Nevertheless, a majority of authors assume that a set of well defined and harmonised indicators is the only way to make sustainability tangible. Those indicators are expected to be identified and adjusted through empirical observations (trial and error).
The most common critiques are related to issues like data quality, comparability, objective function and the necessary resources. However a more general criticism is coming from the project management community: How can a sustainable development be achieved at global level if we cannot monitor it in any single project?
The Cuban-born researcher and entrepreneur Sonia Bueno suggests an alternative approach that is based upon the integral, long-term cost-benefit relationship as a measure and monitoring tool for the sustainability of every project, activity or enterprise. Furthermore, this concept aims to be a practical guideline towards sustainable development following the principle of conservation and increment of value rather than restricting the consumption of resources.
Reasonable qualifications of sustainability are seen U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). This design incorporates some ecological, economic, and social elements. The goals presented by LEED design goals are sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmospheric emission reduction, material and resources efficiency, and indoor environmental quality. Although amount of structures for sustainability development is many, these qualification has become a standard for sustainable building.
Recent research efforts created also the SDEWES Index to benchmark the performance of cities across aspects that are related to energy, water and environment systems. The SDEWES Index consists of 7 dimensions, 35 indicators, and close to 20 sub-indicators. It is currently applied to 58 cities.
The sustainable development debate is based on the assumption that societies need to manage three types of capital (economic, social, and natural), which may be non-substitutable and whose consumption might be irreversible. Leading ecological economist and steady-state theorist Herman Daly, for example, points to the fact that natural capital can not necessarily be substituted by economic capital. While it is possible that we can find ways to replace some natural resources, it is much more unlikely that they will ever be able to replace eco-system services, such as the protection provided by the ozone layer, or the climate stabilizing function of the Amazonian forest. In fact natural capital, social capital and economic capital are often complementarities. A further obstacle to substitutability lies also in the multi-functionality of many natural resources. Forests, for example, not only provide the raw material for paper (which can be substituted quite easily), but they also maintain biodiversity, regulate water flow, and absorb CO2.
Another problem of natural and social capital deterioration lies in their partial irreversibility. The loss of biodiversity, for example, is often definitive. The same can be true for cultural diversity. For example, with globalisation advancing quickly the number of indigenous languages is dropping at alarming rates. Moreover, the depletion of natural and social capital may have non-linear consequences. Consumption of natural and social capital may have no observable impact until a certain threshold is reached. A lake can, for example, absorb nutrients for a long time while actually increasing its productivity. However, once a certain level of algae is reached lack of oxygen causes the lake’s ecosystem to break down suddenly.
If the degradation of natural and social capital has such important consequence the question arises why action is not taken more systematically to alleviate it. Cohen and Winn point to four types of market failure as possible explanations: First, while the benefits of natural or social capital depletion can usually be privatised, the costs are often externalised (i.e. they are borne not by the party responsible but by society in general). Second, natural capital is often undervalued by society since we are not fully aware of the real cost of the depletion of natural capital. Information asymmetry is a third reason—often the link between cause and effect is obscured, making it difficult for actors to make informed choices. Cohen and Winn close with the realization that contrary to economic theory many firms are not perfect optimisers. They postulate that firms often do not optimise resource allocation because they are caught in a “business as usual” mentality.
Education must be revisited in light of a renewed vision of sustainable human and social development that is both equitable and viable. This vision of sustainability must take into consideration the social, environmental and economic dimensions of human development and the various ways in which these relate to education: ‘An empowering education is one that builds the human resources we need to be productive, to continue to learn, to solve problems, to be creative, and to live together and with nature in peace and harmony. When nations ensure that such an education is accessible to all throughout their lives, a quiet revolution is set in motion: education becomes the engine of sustainable development and the key to a better world.’
Higher education in sustainability across education streams including engineering, finance, supply chain and operations is gaining weight-age. Multiple institutes including Wharton, Columbia, CASI Global New York offer certifications in Sustainability. Corporate’s prefer employees certified in sustainability.
Insubstantial stretching of the term
It has been argued that since the 1960s, the concept of sustainable development has changed from “conservation management” to “economic development”, whereby the original meaning of the concept has been stretched somewhat.
In the 1960s, the international community realised that many African countries needed national plans to safeguard wildlife habitats, and that rural areas had to confront the limits imposed by soil, climate and water availability. This was a strategy of conservation management. In the 1970s, however, the focus shifted to the broader issues of the provisioning of basic human needs, community participation as well as appropriate technology use throughout the developing countries (and not just in Africa). This was a strategy of economic development, and the strategy was carried even further by the Brundtland Commission’s report on Our Common Future when the issues went from regional to international in scope and application. In effect, the conservationists were crowded out and superseded by the developers.
But shifting the focus of sustainable development from conservation to development has had the imperceptible effect of stretching the original forest management term of sustainable yield from the use of renewable resources only (like forestry), to now also accounting for the use of non-renewable resources (like minerals).: This stretching of the term has been questioned. Thus, environmental economist Kerry Turner has argued that literally, there can be no such thing as overall “sustainable development” in an industrialised world economy that remains heavily dependent on the extraction of earth’s finite stock of exhaustible mineral resources: “It makes no sense to talk about the sustainable use of a non-renewable resource (even with substantial recycling effort and use rates). Any positive rate of exploitation will eventually lead to exhaustion of the finite stock.”
In effect, it has been argued that the industrial revolution as a whole is unsustainable.
One critic has argued that the Brundtland Commission promoted nothing but a business as usual strategy for world development, with the ambiguous and insubstantial concept of “sustainable development” attached as a public relations slogan::94–99 The report on Our Common Future was largely the result of a political bargaining process involving many special interest groups, all put together to create a common appeal of political acceptability across borders. After World War II, the notion of “development” had been established in the West to imply the projection of the American model of society onto the rest of the world. In the 1970s and 1980s, this notion was broadened somewhat to also imply human rights, basic human needs and finally, ecological issues. The emphasis of the report was on helping poor nations out of poverty and meeting the basic needs of their growing populations—as usual. This issue demanded more economic growth, also in the rich countries, who would then import more goods from the poor countries to help them out—as usual. When the discussion switched to global ecological limits to growth, the obvious dilemma was left aside by calling for economic growth with improved resource efficiency, or what was termed “a change in the quality of growth”. However, most countries in the West had experienced such improved resource efficiency since the early-20th century already and as usual; only, this improvement had been more than offset by continuing industrial expansion, to the effect that world resource consumption was now higher than ever before—and these two historical trends were completely ignored in the report. Taken together, the policy of perpetual economic growth for the entire planet remained virtually intact. Since the publication of the report, the ambiguous and insubstantial slogan of “sustainable development” has marched on worldwide.
Methods of sustainable development governance
Sustainable development can be developed in complementary ways: at the political level, in the territories, in companies, even in one’s personal life. Sustainable development was first implemented in the territories (at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992), then in the company and their stakeholders (at the Johannesburg Earth Summit)).
Historically, sustainability has emerged after a long period of negotiations on a global scale.
The first world conference on sustainable development, a posteriori renamed “Earth Summit”, was held in Stockholm in 1972.
In 1992, during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, proclaimed the 27 principles of the Rio Declaration on Sustainable Development 83. The three pillars of sustainable development are set out for the first time at the international level, and agenda 21 for local and regional authorities is developed.
In 2002, at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, large companies are represented for the first time.
During these meetings, representatives of the stakeholders (NGOs, States, and companies) discuss the major global issues, but also the modes of leadership to be put in place in communities and businesses to concretely decline the concept of sustainable development.
In addition to these “generalist” summits, there are summits on more focused topics, such as the World Water Summits, or the Conference of the Parties, which take place at closer times.
However, NGOs and environmental groups, supported by several personalities, believe that these summits are not enough, and that, to implement the more than 300 conventions and treaties of environmental law and to counterbalance the WTO it would be necessary to have an international policeman with binding powers, which could be called ” World Organization of the Environment “.
Governance in the States
In the European Union, part of the environmental law has progressively moved from the Member States to the European level, which has appeared in the alternative to be more suitable for dealing with some of these issues, in several stages:
The Single European Act, in 1987, transferred to the EEC certain powers of the States: the environment, research and development, and foreign policy,
When the European Union was created in 1993, the environment was treated transversally in the first pillar of the European Union, which is the most integrated, through European regulations and European directives.
The term sustainable development appears for the first time in a Community text with the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, which also includes a protocol on the principle of subsidiarity.
At the Göteborg European Council in 2001, it was decided that the strategy on the knowledge economy defined at the Lisbon European Council the year before would explicitly incorporate the objective of sustainable development. Therefore, at least on paper, the relationship between sustainable development and knowledge engineering has been recognized. This council is reorienting the Lisbon strategy towards sustainable development, and a European Commission Green Paper addresses the topic of corporate social responsibility.
The impact of the environment on vital areas as the water, the energy, the services, the agriculture, the chemistry… is known for a long time: for example, found in France in the xiv th century the obligation to carry out public impact surveys prior to the establishment of polluting industries (comodo incomodo surveys for tanneries), as well as a much older water and forest administration, with autonomous regulatory and coercive power. The European Union has seized certain powers of the national states, in order to establish a new European regulation thatdirectives, directives, regulations) and that Member States must transpose into their regulations and standards.
The European Union has asked each of the Member States to define and implement a national strategy for sustainable development.
It is towards the years 2001 – 2002 that the sustainable development appears in France like the necessity for the companies to account for the social and environmental consequences of their activities, compared to the requirements of the civil society. This resulted in a legislative provision on disclosure in the New Economic Regulations Act (NRE), pushing for the preparation of sustainable development reports.
Former President Jacques Chirac has pushed the drafting of a charter of the environment in 2004, noting in a speech that France was the first country in the world to include the environment in its Constitution 85.
At the same time, Anglo – Saxon companies are weaving networks of influence around international institutions, relying on networks of non – governmental organizations. This makes it possible to collect a large amount of information, which is structured and then managed in the international networks of companies, universities, research centers (see for example the World Business Council on Sustainable Development).
The American strategy also consists of building links with private normative bodies such as the International Chamber of Commerce, located in Paris. The ICC writes “rules”, standard rules in all areas of business life, used as models in contracts financed by international organizations. The ICC played an important role at the Johannesburg Earth Summit in the summer of 2002 by creating, jointly with the WBCSD, the Business Action for Sustainable Development.
Governance in the Territories: Agenda 21
Since the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit (1992) and the signing of the Aalborg Charter (1994), territories are at the heart of sustainable development. With the help of Agenda 21 – a real action plan for sustainable community development – networks of cities and urban communities are able to express needs and implement solutions. For this purpose, local authorities can cooperate with companies, universities, grandes écoles in France, as well as research centers, to devise innovative solutions. for the future.
The Local Agenda 21, a variation of the Agenda 21 locally, can be implemented at the scale of a commune, a department, a region, a community of communes or an agglomeration community. They are defined in consultation with local actors, in a framework of participatory democracy and take place in several phases:
definition of the social, environmental and economic issues and priorities of the territory;
establishment of a specific action plan targeting these issues;
implementation of the action plan;
evaluation and adjustments of actions implemented.
Local initiatives are proliferating in France and, in June 2011, the EcoJardin eco-label for the management of green spaces in large cities was officially launched. This label is to ban the use of phytosanitary products in public gardens, in order to preserve the quality of water and biodiversity. An “ecological reference” has emerged; it defines the specifications to be respected for obtaining the “ecological garden” label. This label is in addition to another European EVE label awarded by Ecocert and already operational.
In cities of more than 50 000 inhabitants, an annual sustainability report to be produced (in four parts) and published each year, playing a supporting role and self-assessment for continuous improvement 88. It is also a voucher required for the labeling application.
Corporate Governance: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Powerful at the international level, creators of resources and resources, companies have an intervention capacity that can be particularly effective in favor of sustainable development:
they participate directly in economic development through their investments;
through the working conditions they offer to their employees, they participate in creating or reducing social inequalities;
Consumers of natural resources, producers of waste and generators of pollution, their activities modify more or less deeply the environment.
In compliance with sustainable development objectives by companies, specifically talking about CSR (corporate social responsability) or sometimes more specifically of corporate social responsibility 89 as the liability component not only is the “social”.
Corporate social responsibility is a concept in which companies integrate social, environmental and even good governance concerns into their activities and their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis. In addition to the regulatory and legislative requirements, there is a whole range of possible actions on a voluntary basis, which can be based on standards, including in France, a law on new economic regulations (NRE).) which encourages listed companies to include in their annual reports a series of information relating to the social and environmental consequences of their activities.
The notion of human sustainable development in business is becoming a reality following the many problems of absenteeism, stress and burnout. It is directly related to responsible managerial behavior internally and externally.
Since the early 2000s, many firms have directions of sustainable development. They have initiated often ambitious policies to change internal behaviors and tangibly embody their social and environmental responsibilities.
Sustainable development education
In March 2005, at a high level meeting of Ministries of Environment and Education in Vilnius (Lithuania), a European strategy for education for sustainable development was adopted. Education has been presented not only as a human right, but also as a sine qua non of sustainable development and an indispensable tool for good governance, informed decision- making and the promotion of democracy. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) leads to awarenessgreater and greater autonomy to explore new horizons and concepts and the development of new methods. In August 2004 a framework for the implementation of this strategy for Europe had already been defined. Implementation frameworks have also been defined for Africa, the Arab States, Asia / Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.
In September 2005, the International Plan for the Implementation of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development was approved at a session of Unesco. This plan defined a framework for the decade 2005-2014.
In the different Member States of the European Union, actions on education have been integrated into national strategies for sustainable development. In France, education for sustainable development has been integrated into the teaching, especially in history-geography, civic education, and in the sciences of life and the Earth. Unlike the scientific disciplines that favor environmental education and civic education, which addresses in the curriculum of the sixth year the environment and its protection by the citizens in a theme dedicated to the inhabitants in their commune, the The focus is on geography on the three aspects of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental). The programs of the fifth and second classes are fully devoted to it. The Ministry of Education French also developed methods of education using information technology and communication for education (TICE). In France too, it was created in 2011 for the 2013 session a sector preparing forScience and Technology Baccalaureate in industry and sustainable development where the latter concept is fully integrated into the programs.
In France, a dimension of sustainable development is generally integrated into higher education. In engineering schools, for example, students are informed of their future obligations through the dissemination of the code of ethics of the engineer, according to which: “The engineer inscribes his actions in a” sustainable development “approach. Article of the Grenelle 1 Act of 3 August 2009 stipulates: “Higher education institutions will prepare, for the 2009 academic year, a” Green Plan “for campuses. Universities and grandes écoles will be able to apply for a label on the basis of sustainable development criteria “. A green outline plan of establishment was prepared by the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles, the French Student Network for Sustainable Development and the Conference of University Presidents. The framework respects the architecture of the national strategy for sustainable development by structuring actions according to nine key challenges.
Some online courses open to all (MOOC, massive open online course in English) on the theme of sustainable development have been developed on platforms FUN, Coursera and the University of Hummingbirds.
In companies and administrations
Companies have generally adopted sustainable development charters in their strategy. However, internal communication on this topic has often left employees skeptical because of distortions with social practices observed on the ground.
In France, a number of managers are regularly trained in various organizations, such as the College of Advanced Studies of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Cap Gemini Institute on Computer Aspects, or exchange information in groups. former students of schools (X-environment for the École Polytechnique, ISIGE Alumni for the ISIGE-MINES ParisTech, etc.).
In France always, the engineers are required, at least theoretically, to respect the charter of ethics of the engineer elaborated by IESF.
In civil society
In civil society, it is associations and non-governmental organizations that contribute most to raising awareness among the general public. The major NGOs (WWF, Friends of the Earth, Catholic Relief, Action Against Hunger, Amnesty International…) implement social responsibility initiatives and regularly organize awareness campaigns on specific aspects of sustainable development. The sites internet of these associations are also remarkable mobilization tools. The tools for calculating theecological footprint, freely accessible on the Web, make it possible to raise awareness of the environmental problem.
Finally, the United Nations organizes annual World Awareness Days and dedicates each year to a theme related to the protection of the environment. In 2010, they focused on biodiversity. 2011 is the International Year of Forests.
Source from Wikipedia