The current and most widely used definition for sustainable development dates from 1987 (Brundtland) and is totally useless for sustainable progress. It says:
“sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
This statement is not sustainable itself as it cannot pinpoint individual responsibility to anyone or current generations let alone future generations. Consider for instance what the definition of needs is of today? Needs of who? The material wealthy or the poor in Africa or Asia? Your needs? My needs? Do they refer to the needs of business or political economies, luxury or primary needs? Business needs maybe?
How about the needs of future generations? How would we know what these future generations will need? They might for all we know require massive amounts of oil for medical purposes, yet we burn it all up right now. How can we take responsibility for the abilities of future generations if they are not just dependent on our left overs but also on important other variables that have nothing to do with human behavior, s.a. climat changes for instance. Do we blame the human who killed the last Dodo because he was hungry? Or do we blame ourselves for not creating responsible alternatives for nutrician before the Dodos were made extinct in the first place. How many species have to perrish before we take responsibility for the current generation?
In fact, who would control what we use, how we use it and determine if it affects future generations at all? Is this control our individual responsibility? How can we measure this? Who is to blame if we judge incorrectly and who judges? And how can I worry about compromising future generations if we already compromise current generation around our globe? In fact, this most popular definition is a open letter that allows us and anyone to do what we please without taking any responsibility. As it stands it has been insignificant since the definition appeared and introduced a green washing wisdom in industrial and government policies around the world. It may have made us a little more aware but certainly not more sustainable in development or progress, on the contrary, and not at all responsible towards future generations as we wouldn’t know how. And really, who in command cares?
In my own foundation we work on the development of workable cooperative organizations around projects that address sustainable progress of humanity itself, segmented into key issues. Interestingly we could do absolutely nothing with the definition. We found it perfectly viable to introduce some basic environment awareness in capitalist industries but totally useless when projected onto the complexity of current humanity itself.
This motivated me to come up with one of my own, just like probably hundreds of other responsible people around me over the years. My definition for sustainable progress is:
“Sustainable progress is the development that continuously improves human health, vitality, safety and dynamic progression in optimal relationship with the constantly changing environment in which we live and act.”
I found that this definition places the responsibility with each and everyone of us, as individuals as well as business and public entities, in the here and now. It became the basis of the cooperative innovative business identities that are being developped by us around real issues that concern us today, s.a. energy, quality of life, education, smart mobility, air quality and polution, food, water, etc…
The definition helps us to define our visions away from material goals and determine specific higher purposes that matter and have a positive effect on our selves, our current generations and our environment. We feel it contributes to true sustainable progress in a measurable and accountable way with the satisfaction that whatever we do in this context it will always serve also generations to come.