What is Sustainability?
Sustainability/ Sustainable Development/ Ecologically Sustainable Development
Sustainability has a number of definitions and the terms above are used interchangeably.
Sustainability is essentially about enjoying a high quality of life within our fair share of the earth’s resources, or more simply - enough for everyone, for ever.
Council's Sustainability Policy (2013) defines sustainability as being "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".
This is the definition that is most widely accepted throughout the world and comes from the World Commission on Environment and Development [insert hyperlink to Brundtland Report, 1980 (Our Common Future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development]
Development in the context of Ecologically Sustainable Development has a different meaning to development in the local government sense of Development Applications (DAs) or Development Control Plans (DCPs). The first is about international development - the development of greater quality of life for humans, whilst the latter is about the built environment.
Triple Bottom Line (TBL)
Triple bottom line (TBL) accounting expands the traditional reporting framework to take into account social and environmental performance in addition to financial performance. It is an approach to decision making that applies economic, environmental and social criteria to decisions across council activities.
What are the principles of sustainability?
Council is commited to the key principles of sustainability, as outlined in the Local Government Act (1993) . These are:
1. Integrated decision-making
Integrate both long and short-term economic, environmental, community and ethical considerations when making decisions. Decisions need to consider the linkages between economic, environmental and community dimensions, and take account of impacts that may occur over many years.
2. Provide for equity within and between generations.
The present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained and enhanced for future generations. We should ensure that everyone and every community across the world has enough for a decent life and opportunities to seek improvements. We should strive for equity in our decisions.
3. Conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity
Conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration. Natural systems, and the plants and animals that inhabit them, have important benefits to the community. We need to build a relationship between people and the environment that will maintain the long-term integrity of these systems.
4. Act cautiously when there is a risk of serious or irreversible impacts on the environment or the community.
This is known as the ‘precautionary principle’, namely if there is a threat of serious or permanent environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.
5. Recognise dimensions beyond our border while concentrating on issues we can influence.
This means ‘Think Global, Act Local’. Environment and development issues operate on a global scale. Our local actions should connect with regional, national and global scale activities and directions. For example, we can demonstrate leadership by taking action on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of a global effort and consider not only the local but the regional, national and global implications for greenhouse gas emissions on the decisions we make.
6. Provide for broad public involvement on issues that affect the community.
We need to engage individuals, communities, stakeholders and businesses and adopt open deliberations to build an understanding of sustainability and promote collective responsibility.