Sustainable development is defined as the organizing principle of meeting human development goals while, at the same time, sustaining the ability of natural systems to continue providing the ecosystem services and natural resources on which society, as well as the economy, depend. The required result is a society where resources and living conditions are used to continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural system. Sustainable development is most commonly defined as “development which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the future generation’s ability to meet their own needs”. Sustainability goals address global challenges such as inequality, poverty, climate change, peace, justice and environmental degradation. The modern concept of sustainable development is derived mostly from the 1987 Brundtland Report. However, it is also centred around earlier ideas about twentieth-century ecological concerns and sustainable forest management. As the concept of sustainable development became more and more prominent, the focus shifted more towards social development, environmental protection and economic development for future generations. The term ‘sustainability’ should be viewed as the target goal of humankind’s concept of human-ecosystem equilibrium, where ‘sustainable development’ refers to temporal processes and the holistic approach that leads to the endpoint of sustainability. Endeavouring to reconcile obligations of preserving natural resources and ecosystems and ambitious economic development, as the two are usually seen as of conflicting nature, modern economies should be turning and leveraging climate change commitments and other sustainability measures into market opportunities which will do greater good, instead of holding it as a remedy to economic development. The economic growth brought about by organized practices and principles in an economy is known as Managed Sustainable Development or MSD.
Sustainable development has been and still is, subject to a variety of valid criticism, such as the question of what needs to be sustained in sustainable development. Scientists argue that there can be no such thing as a sustainable use for a non-renewable resource because any positive rate of exploitation will eventually lead to the exhaustion of the finite stock of it on the Earth. This perspective renders that the Industrial Revolution as a whole was wholly unsustainable. Scientists also argue that the concept’s meaning has been stretched opportunistically from conservation management to economic development, which meant that the 1987 Brundtland Report promoted nothing but a business strategy for world development, with an insubstantial and ambiguous concept in conjecture with a public relations slogan.
Education that encourages changes in skills, knowledge, attitudes and values to enable a more sustainable and equitable society is known as education for sustainable development (ESD). It aims to equip and empower both the current and future generations to meet their needs using an integrated and balanced approach to the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainable development.