What is Sustainability? Concept, Origin, Approaches, Criteria, Pillars, Goals

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What is Sustainability

Concept of Sustainability

Sustainability means meeting our own present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs of resources including environmental, social, economic, cultural and political resources. Therefore, it is a complex concept and linked with the sustainable development. The most often quoted definition comes from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED 1987): “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Thus, the term sustainability may be defined as “the integration of environmental health, social equity and economic vitality in order to create thriving, healthy, diverse and resilient communities for the present generation as well as generations to come”.
What is Sustainability

It emphasizes that rate of consumption and use of natural resources must approximate the rate which those resources can be sustained or replaced. It presumes that resources are finite and should be used conservatively and wisely with a view to long-term priorities. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in a productive harmony to support present and future generations. In simplest terms, sustainability is about our children and our grandchildren and the world we will leave them. 

Origin and History

The concept of sustainability is relatively a new idea but it has roots in social justice, conservationism, internationalism and other past movements with rich histories. It gain momentum at the beginning of the 80s, when by a small group of environmentalists and environmental economists coined the term and concept of sustainability. In the year 1987 a report on “Our common Future” was published by the World Commission of Environment and Development, popularized the term sustainable development. This report is also known as the Brundtland report.
Due to this report sustainable development has been put on the international political agenda by the UN via linking it with the human development. Therefore, it is a notable and visionary development paradigm adopted by UN to increase life expectancy by providing healthier living conditions and better healthcare, to all people.

Sustainable human development may be defined as ‘the capacity of all human communities, including the most deprived, to meet their fundamental needs for accommodation, drinking water, food, satisfactory health and hygiene, participation in decision-making, social cohesion, a social fabric, cultural and spiritual expression, etc.
This entails the adaptation of technologies and lifestyles to the social, economic and environmental potential of each region, internalizing costs and establishing systems that are compatible with the biosphere. It seeks a balance between the ecological, economic and social spheres, while also taking account of political (participation and democratization), ethical (responsibility, solidarity, social justice and sufficiency) and cultural (local diversity and artistic expression) considerations. Various milestones in the evolution of the sustainable development approach are given in Table 1.

Table 1. Evolution of sustainable development concept.

Drivers of change

In the developing countries extreme poverty still affects the lives of millions of people and in 1993 more than 1.3 billion people were earning less than US$ 1 per day (UNEP 1999). High rate of poverty and mal-distribution of wealth associated with various social evils like diseases, serious crime, family breakdown and use of narcotic drugs. 
Climate change, environmental pollution, natural resource deterioration, loss of forest and biodiversity has complex interaction with socioeconomic systems (Singh et al. 2005). 
Climate poses numerous challenges for sustainable development. We have maximized our ability to extract fossil oil in an era of probably far higher prices for oil-based products in one side and emission of pollutants in the environment, is a threat to the high quality of life enjoyed on the other side. Loss of Biodiversity due to deforestation, especially in rainforests which comprise just 6 percent of the world’s land but contain more than 5,00,000 of the planet’s species. In arid and semiarid regions land degradation results in desertification, acid rain or acidification is the process of forming acids from various air pollutants viz. ammonia, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and Eutrophication of water bodies are forms the sound basis of sustainability.
Sustainability is, thus, a framework upon which can be built specific strategies for guiding decision making. It encourages more responsible manufacturing and production, covering the industrial side of waste and pollution. It also encourages companies, industries, and governments to make decisions based on long-term consequences, rather than taking the easiest, cheapest option. This entails the adaptation of technologies and lifestyles to the social, economic and environmental potential of each region, costs and establishing systems that are compatible with the biosphere.

Pillars of Sustainability

Sustainability is a framework upon which can be built specific strategies for guiding decision making. Increasing population and consumptions of the resources are the main hurdles in achieving the sustainability. Developed countries (world’s wealthiest countries), with less than 20 percent of the world's population, contribute roughly 40 percent of global carbon emissions and they are responsible for more than 60 percent of the total carbon dioxide that fossil fuel combustion has added to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution began, but now it changing rapidly. Consumption is another side of the problem, especially per capita consumption of key natural resources which varies greatly around the world. Typically, the citizens of rich industrialized nations use more of the world's resources and produce more waste. As a result they sometimes deplete their own resources and often the resources of other countries. A typical example is meat. China, with the world's largest population, is the highest overall producer and consumer of meat, but the highest per-capita consumption in the world is that of the United States. The average United States citizen consumes more than three times the global average of 37 kilos per person per year. Africans consume less than half the global average, and South Asians consume the least, under 6 kilos per person per year (Thomas 2002).

Sustainability is a holistic approach that considers ecological, social and economic dimensions. It recognized all must be considered together to find lasting prosperity. A popular method of considering the sustainability state of mind is the triple bottom line approach. Sustainability is measured by assessing performance of the three main principles altogether, in particular a balanced treatment. These three terms are also known as the three pillars of sustainability or concept of sustainability concepts or three dimensions of sustainability. These three bottom lines, or pillars are:

Economic Sustainability - Economic sustainability takes into account the social and ecological consequences of economic activity. Societal wellbeing would have to be maximized and poverty eradicated through the optimal use of natural resources. Additionally, it also means that human communities across the globe are able to maintain their independence and have access to the resources that they require, financial and other to meet their needs.

Social Sustainability - A socially sustainable society is one in which all members have equal rights, all share equitably in societal benefits and all participate equally in the decision-making process. Universal human rights and basic necessities are attainable by all people, who have access to enough resources in order to keep their families and communities healthy and secure. Thus, it is based on the distribution of equity, uplifting the welfare of people, improving access to basic health and education services, gender equity, political accountability and participation.

Environmental Sustainability - this sustainability empathized that all of earth’s environmental systems are kept in balance while natural resources within them are consumed by humans at a rate where they are able to replenish themselves.
Environmental sustainability has a main focus on maintenance of biological diversity, atmospheric stability and ecosystem function and services.
As far as the priorities of these three terms are concerned the environmental sustainability comes first. The social and economic sustainability and beneficiaries are all the organisms are depending subsystems. In the recent years following two new pillars of sustainability also emerged out.

These are:

Cultural sustainability - it refers maintaining cultural beliefs, practices, heritage conservation, morals and collection of human knowledge and relates with the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Cultural sustainability has always been categorized under the social pillar of the three pillars of sustainability, but with recent developments within this field considerations are being made in order to make Cultural Sustainability its own pillar, due to its growing importance within social, political, environmental, and economic sphere
What is Sustainability

Political sustainability - refers to a stable political system in order to apply various policies and practices for the change to transform economy monitory dependent development to environmentally sustainable and also negotiate, support an item on the political agenda locally, regionally and globally.

Guiding principles of sustainability

Sustainability is largely relying on conservation based development needs. To protect the structure and function as well as diversity of natural ecosystems it focuses on following aspects:
  1. Integration of environmental and economy - The environment and the economy are very closely related. Various economic tools and policies may promote sustainable development, or at least lead to a more environmentally conscious use of resources. These tools or policies may be applied equally to producers, consumers and taxpayers and to enable the market to determine the correct overall cost of using resources. The integration of the environment and the economy is as advantageous for poorer countries as for rich ones because, if production models adhere to economic and environmental rules, there may be a better balance of comparative production advantages. The result could be a softening of world trade rules whereby poorer countries would be enabled to lay claim to greater economic development.
  2. Conservation of Biological Diversity and sustainable use of Natural Resources - Achieving sustainable development presupposes that we can preserve biological diversity, maintain ecological processes and life support systems and use the world’s species and ecosystems in a sustainable manner is necessary to achieve sustainability. These measures must focus on species and ecosystems as well as on their genetic heritage. Consequently, the limits, on and the capacity for renewal of, natural resources such as soil, wild and domesticated species, forests, pasture and farmland, fresh water and marine ecosystems, must not be compromised. The life of non-renewable resources should be extended by developing and using more effective and cleaner technologies and by encouraging re-use and recycling.
  3. Cooperation, Partnership and Participation - Achieving sustainable development has become a collective responsibility that must be fulfilled through action at all levels of human activity. Consultation and cooperation in all decision-making are essential to the sustainable management of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems. It is incumbent upon all states and all nations to cooperate in good faith and in a spirit of partnership in implementing effective strategies to protect, preserve and restore the environment. All must take an active part and do their fair share in accordance with their capabilities and the means at their disposal. All governments must accept their responsibilities by introducing economic growth policies and programs compatible with the protection of their own environment and that of others. They must ensure the protection of ecosystems of particular importance for agriculture and the way of life of the populations that depend on it.
  • No to exceed the earth carrying capacity
  • To improve the quality of life including the social and economic concerns 
  • To develop a national framework code to integrate development and conservation. 
  • The principles of sustainability can be linked with the goals of sustainability.

Sustainable Development Goals or goals of sustainability

One of the main outcomes of Rio+20 Conference is the agreement by members to launch a process to develop a set of sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. These goals stressed on the eradication of poverty by increasing economic growth and job opportunities while conserving the environment, increasing education, health, social and climatic protection. In the year 2017 UN members adopted Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, in which 17 goads are defined. These are as follows:

Goals of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere - More than 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the world population, still live in extreme poverty today, struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation to name a few.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger - According to the World Food Program, 135 million suffer from acute hunger largely due to man-made conflicts, climate change and economic downturns. The COVID-19 pandemic could now double that number, putting an additional 130 million people at risk of suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages - Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages is essential to sustainable development. Currently, the world is facing a global health crisis COVID-19 which is spreading human suffering, destabilizing the global economy and upending the lives of billions of people around the globe.

Goal 4: Quality education - Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility and is a key to escaping poverty. Despite a significant progress made in the last decade still 260 M children were still out of schools.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls- Gender equality provides necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. There has been progress over the last decades: More girls are going to school, fewer girls are forced into early marriage, more women are serving in parliament and positions of leadership and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality. Despite a lot of gains still many challenges remain as suchlike discriminatory laws and social norms, poor representation in political leaderships and sexual violence.

Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all - Worldwide, 33 % people do not have access to safe drinking water, 40 % people do not have a basic hand-washing facility with soap and water, and more than 673 million people still practice open defecation.

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy - The Energy Progress Report provides global dashboard to register progress on energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all – This can drive economic progress, create jobs for all and improve living standards.

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation- Inclusive and sustainable industrialization, together with innovation and infrastructure, can unleash dynamic and competitive economic forces that generate employment and income. They play a key role in introducing and promoting new technologies, facilitating international trade and enabling the efficient use of resources.

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries - Reducing inequalities and ensuring no one is left behind to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable- Cities and metropolitan areas contributing about 60 per cent of global GDP. However, they also account for about 70 per cent of global carbon emissions and over 60 per cent of resource use. This increasing the expansion of cities and growing number of slum dwellers leading to inadequate infrastructure and services, worsening the pollution and unplanned urban sprawl.

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns - Worldwide consumption and production have destructive impacts on the planet natural environment and resources. This leads to environmental degradation which is endangering the very systems on which our survival depends. One third of all food produced rotten every year due to poor harvesting, storage, and transport facilities.

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts - Climate change is affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming more extreme. 2019 was the second warmest year on record and the end of the warmest decade (2010- 2019) ever recorded. Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to new records in 2019. The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, aims to keep temperature rise globally below the 2 0C compared to preindustrial level.

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources - The oceans and sea provide many products and regulate of many services including the climates of the world. Thus, careful management of marine resources is essential for sustainable future. However, at the current time, there is a continuous deterioration of coastal waters owing to pollution, and ocean acidification is having an adversarial effect on the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity recalls putting more efforts to conserve these.

Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss – Forest and wildlife is critical to our survival, but it is under increasing stress due to high anthropogenic activities. Human activity has altered almost 75 per cent of the earth’s surface, squeezing wildlife and nature into an ever-smaller corner of the planet. Investing in land restoration is critical for improving livelihoods, reducing vulnerabilities, and reducing risks for the economy.

Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies – This goal addresses the social insecurity, justice system because social insecurity, weak institutions and limited access to justice in the world is still a great threat to sustainable development particularly in the developing countries.

Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development- The SDGs can only be realized with strong global partnerships and cooperation.
A successful development agenda requires inclusive partnerships to build principles and values; and to share vision and goals placing people and the planet at the global, regional, national and local levels of centers.

Criteria and indicators of sustainability

Sustainability can be regulated by adopting different criteria in order to assess opportunities, risk derived from the pillars and linking them with sustainability. Simply, sustainability criteria are requirements to the sustainable quality of a product and its sustainable production, which have to be fulfilled in order to acquire a sustainability status or certification (Pavlovskaia 2012).
Bell and Morse (2001) have recommended the following criteria of sustainable development:
  • Social justice; 
  • Local government, public participation, democracy; 
  • Sustainable balance between local and imported resources consumption;
  • Use of local economic potential;
  • Environmental protection;
  • Protection of cultural heritage,
  • Protection and regeneration of a new environmental quality,

Indicators for sustainability criteria

An indicator is parameters which provide information about and describe the state of a phenomenon. Indicators are, thus, quantified information which helps to explain how things are changing over time. Indicators of sustainable development have been developed to measure identifiable economic, social and environmental conditions. Indicators for sustainability criteria are the tools used to check and evaluate the fulfillment of sustainability criteria, as well as progress towards sustainability. Indicators can provide quantitative measurement and qualitative assessment of human activities and their impact on the surrounding world (Annon. 2010). These correspond to policy goals, informative, easy to understand and compute logical, effective, practical, reliable and accessible data.
United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) revised in 2007 the set of indicators of sustainable development to serve as reference for countries to develop or revise national indicators of sustainable development (Table 2).

Table 2.CSD Indicators of Sustainable Development–3rd edition
In 2017 the global indicator framework for Sustainable Development Goals was developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) and adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017 and is contained in the Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/RES/71/313). According to the Resolution, the indicator framework will be refined annually and reviewed comprehensively by the Statistical Commission at its fifty-first session in March 2020 and its fifty-sixth session, to be held in 2025. The global indicator framework will be complemented by indicators at the regional and national levels, which will be developed by Member States. The global indicator framework includes 231 unique indicators.

Approaches to sustainable development

Nowadays, “sustainability” is a very widely used terms in policy contexts, businesses and organizations. However, the unfortunate paradox is that environmental degradation and destruction are occurring at unprecedented levels. It involves economic as well as social and environmental changes, thus requiring an interdisciplinary approach. International organizations and institutions uses three main approaches to Sustainable Development (SD) have been analyzed: -

The first approach is the integration of economic, social and environmental systems, all of which must be simultaneously sustainable, because each of the three pillars is independently crucial and because the three pillars are interconnected.

The second one is ecosystem health approach which considers the economic and social systems as subsystems of the global environment. This approach implies focusing on the pressures placed on ecosystems by human activities (material and energy extraction, physical restructuring, pollutant emissions, human appropriation of space and ecosystem productivity). These pressures are often the cause of reduced ecosystem health as manifested in degraded service lows and reduced management options.

The third one is the resources or capital approach, which views sustainable development as development that ensures non-declining per capita national wealth by replacing or conserving the stocks of produced, human, social and natural capital. It broadens the concept of economic capital by integrating concepts from physical and social sciences to include measures of human, social, natural and environmental capital.
In the above approaches following methods are used:
  1. Appraisal of the Environment
  2. Estimation of the Environmental Impact
  3. Natural Resource Accounting
  4. Government Policies and Economic Outlook.

Appraisal of the Environment
Assessment of environmental conditions is prerequisite for initiation of any sustainable development project. In this system symbiotic relationship between local ecology, social structure and economic conditions of the area concerned should be taken into account for assessing the sustainability. Bio-physical condition of the area is intricately related with the economic order of the region which, in turn, influences societal development. The assessment report recommends action plan.

Estimation of the Environmental Impact
Environment and its positive use is a key factor for sustainable development. Negative impact on environment through unplanned development may harm the sustainability as a whole. Estimation of environmental impact is the study of interrelationship with natural systems and development process The development which creates complete social and environmental harmony is only classed as sustainable. To achieve this goal, identification of the major positive aspects and its optimum utilization and monitoring is necessary.
Thus, in this method different ecological inputs along with climate, soil, vegetation and drainage resources should be properly assessed and monitored and how development process affects these natural systems should be critically examined.

Natural resource accounting
In this system of natural resources like clean air, soil, water, forests, ecotourism, wildlife, livestock, etc. taken for accounting of sustainability. This is opposed to the traditional accounting system which ignores the economy of natural systems. This system is a new one and therefore, no unified methodology exists for evaluation of resources.

Government Policies and Economic Outlook
In this method the government policies and economic matters taken in the accounting system as the Government policies play an important part in the conservation and allocation of resources between poor and rich, reducing inequality among individuals etc.


Definition and concept
Ethics or morality has to do with the principles, standards, rules, norms of conduct that make cooperation, justice, and freedom possible. It provides a philosophically based touchstone for an ideal of justice, right relationship and the proper use of power and authority. Ethics is grounded on the ethical commitment to the well-being not only of contemporary populations but also the wellbeing and enhanced opportunities of future generations. According to Jennings (2010) the ethical analysis typically has the following four central components:
  • An evaluation of the character and intentions of the agent- what virtues/vices does the agent exemplify?
  • An evaluation of the inherent properties of an action- what rights or duties does the action fulfill or violate?
  • An evaluation of the consequences of an action- what benefits or harms are brought about by the action?
  • Evaluations of the context within which actions take place- does the action support or undermine the system or context which makes the action possible and meaningful in the first place?
In sum, virtue, rightness, consequence, and context are all ethically important in navigating sustainability. A sustainable society lives within the carrying capacity of its natural and social system. It has a system of rules and incentives that promote replenishing and limit depletion and pollution. A sustainable society builds upon the commitment of its members to conform to these rules voluntarily, and it enforces them when necessary.
Environmental ethics is the study of value, moral relationship of human beings to the environment and its non-human contents. Environmental ethics believe that humans are a part of society as well as other living creatures, which includes plants and animals. These items are a very important part of the world and are considered to be a functional part of human life. Human values are the things that are important to individuals that they then use to evaluate actions or events and become a factor when looking at environmental ethics. Human values are unique to each individual because not everyone places the same importance on each element of life. For example, a person living in poverty in an undeveloped country may find it morally acceptable to cut down the forest to make room for a farm where he can grow food for his family. However, a person in a developed country may find this action morally unacceptable because the destruction of forests increases carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, which can negatively impact the environment.
Depletion of natural resources, global climate change, biodiversity loss, degradation and destruction off ecosystems, air, water pollution are the challenging aspects of anthropogenic activities and directly related with environmental ethics and human values.
Therefore, it exerts influence on a large range of disciplines including environmental law, environmental sociology, ecological economics, ecology and environmental geography. Its emergence was the result of increased awareness of how the rapidly growing world population was impacting the environment as well as the environmental consequences that came with the growing use of pesticides, technology and industry in the 1970s.
The first academic conference concerning environmental ethics was held at the University of Georgia in 1971; the first journal, Environmental Ethics, was founded in 1978. The International Society for Environmental Ethics was founded in 1989 and the International Association for Environmental Philosophy in 1997. From the 1980s onward, research, publication and teaching in environmental ethics rapidly expanded. Environmental ethics are now a key feature of environmental studies that establishes the relationship between humans and the earth. With environmental ethics, you can ensure that you are doing your part to keep the environment safe and protected. Environmental ethics builds on scientific understanding by bringing human values, moral principles and improved decision making into conversation with science.

Theories of environmental ethics
Environmental ethics is a huge field and so vast therefore, difficult for one principle to cover all the aspects. Many theories have emerged over the years, and each one has stressed on various principles of environmental ethics. These are:

The term anthropocentrism can be used to refer to worldviews and attitudes, to intrinsic value, or to moral status and significance. It suggests that human beings are the most important beings. All other living beings are but accessories that would assist in their survival. The argument that anthropocentric attitudes, such as that humans have dominion over nature, lie at the root of our environmental problems has historically been influential in environmental ethics. Now, there are two further divisions of anthropocentrism. These are: weak anthropocentrism and strong anthropocentrism.
  • Weak anthropocentrism - believes that human beings are the center because it is only through their perspective that environmental situations can be interpreted.
  • Strong anthropocentrism - believes that human beings are at the center because they rightfully deserve to be there.

Environmental Justice and Sustainability

Environmental justice is a key concern of environmental ethics. It is defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Global and intergenerational justice issues have recently gained greater attention because of their centrality to the ethics of global climate change. Affluent people living today are disproportionately responsible for anthropogenic climate change because of their high-consumption (and so high emissions) lifestyles. However, poor people in low-income countries are, and will increasingly be, disproportionally exposed to the ecological hazards associated with climate change, being more dependent on their local ecological systems and having a lower adaptive capacity (e.g., less wealth and mobility).

As opposed to anthropocentrism, this principle gives value to every object, every animal in nature. It is a principle that believes in everything that sustains itself in nature.

Ethics and Sentient Animals - One key approach to environmental ethics focuses on the moral status, and ethical treatment, of individual animals. Most commonly, moral status is attributed on the basis of animals’ subjective experiential welfare, particularly animals’ capacity to feel pain. The basic idea that sentience is a sufficient condition for moral status is widely accepted in environmental ethics, even by those who do not regard it as a necessary condition.

Ethical Biocentrism - Ethical biocentrism is used to describe ethical positions in which all living things have moral status. A number of biocentric approaches have been systematically developed these approaches disagree about what characterizes a living thing and why those characteristics might be thought of as morally relevant; whether some living things are more morally significant than others; and whether the value of life is just one among a broader, plural set of values conveying moral relevance, or is the only such value.

Ecocentrism - In this theory moral sphere outward from the human community to the biotic community and suggest ethic was not systematic. It, thus, enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals and their preservation for the integrity, stability and beauty of the earth.

Species - According to this theory species have value distinct from that of the individual organisms that comprise them Species, and populations, are certainly instrumentally valuable. They provide food, medicine, shelter, recreation, enjoyable experiences, knowledge, and more. The question here is whether they have value not based on their usefulness to us. There are two ways in which both ecosystems and species might have non-instrumental value. They might have interests or a good of their own that we ought to care about (moral status) or they might be valuable in their own right even if they lack interests (another form of intrinsic value).

Wildness Value - Wildness is defined as “in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape...where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Wildness or naturalness is significant in environmental ethics.

Hybrid or Value - Pluralist Views- this theory says that moral status of many different kinds of beings and things have defended a variety of values. Some positions in environmental ethics are value monist-arguing that there is ultimately only one kind of master value (e.g., positive sentient experience, or flourishing) and that other apparent value can be analyzed in terms of or be reduced to that one value. pluralist view may adopt where one can consistently rank values and apply some kind of lexical priority rule on one value (or amount of the value) over another value (or amount of the value).

Role of ethics

The environmental ethics plays a key role in the recognition of the human- environment interactions. Modern environmental ethics is the philosophical re-thinking of modern human race’s environmental behavior. Sustainable development implies harmony on human-environment interactions and inters- generation responsibility, with emphasis on a harmonious relationship among population, resources, environment and development, so as to lay a sustainable and healthy foundation of resources and environment for future generations. The role of environmental ethics in regional development consists of cognition, criticism, education, inspiration, adjusting, legislation and promoting environmental regulations. Environmental ethics plays big role in conservation of natural resources. It largely relies on making human communities and ecosystems better, protecting important resources for the present and future. Its role can be categorized into following:
  • In the management of natural resources to meet our increasing needs and wants.
  • To build a scientific understanding by bringing humans values, moral principles
  • To improve decision making into conservation based sustainable development.
  • In helping sustainable development at regional and local level
  • In the harmonizing relationship of population, resource, environment and economic development
  • In the behavior selection, social and political system transformation
  • In strengthening the legal system
  • In raising environmental awareness.
  • In the Protection of environmental rights of animals.
  • In the conservation of traditional value systems
  • In the equitable utilization of natural resources.
  • In the equity among the people of rural and urban areas and also between males and females.

Globalization and sustainable development

Globalization refers to market liberalization, shifting profits up the value chain and the interconnectivity of global markets. Globalization gave fresh importance to spatial economics along with the significance of financial and monetary layouts. Globalization, when well-managed, can provide better results to everyone or most of us. There are a lot of confusion and differences over discussions as the process of globalization has diverse implications to various people (Antonucci and Variable 2020). Globalization started to influence all aspects of community life, from culture to crime and from finance to religion.
Due to globalization, the world is turning into a single social space, shaped by complex economic and technological forces. Globalisation is characterized by four major trends which entailed new problems and challenges for society.
These are:
  • Increased flows of commodities and persons,
  • Expansion and diversification of financial activities;
  • Development of communication networks, knowledge and relationships;
  • Increasing disparities.
The impact of these changes is so immeasurable that governments and individuals can do little to contest or resist them. The main challenge is the growing disparities between developed and other societies and within societies themselves, leading to a high degree of economic stratification between rich and poor, at regional, national and global levels. Unfortunately, this difference is not shrinking, it is growing and sometimes manifest in violent outbursts causing considerable human and material damage. Further, sustainability of globalization may or may not flow in a similar way for all countries. Some of them like the United Kingdom and Japan might experience a better local atmosphere due to the globalization process, while others like Bangladesh and Mexico can experience a declining and fading environment(Ushakov and Chich-Jen 2020).

Though there are various ways to define the complexity of the processes related to globalization (Sano 2020; Goel et al. 2020). Following indexes are mainly used to analyze the overall impact of globalization on the countries’ sustainability also to assess its significances in a scientific manner. These are:

The KOF Globalization Index (KOFGI) - The KOF Globalization Index (KOFGI) is used in this study as a measure of globalization which is calculated on a yearly basis from 1970 to 2015 (Gygliet al. 2019). This index measures the economic, social and political dimension to globalization. It is used in order to monitor changes in the level of globalization of different countries over extended periods of time. The data are normalized implying that each variable is transformed to an index with a scale from one to one hundred, where 100 is assigned to the maximum value of a specific variable over the whole sample of countries and the entire period of time which is the analogue to a transformation of the series according to the percentiles of its original distribution. The procedure is called panel normalization which is different to annual normalization where data are normalized across all countries in the same year only. The resulting data are well-behaved in terms of sensitivity to outliers (Tang et al. 2020). Economic, social and political globalizations are assessed giving equal weight. The economic globalization consists of trade globalization and financial globalization, of which each gets a weight of 50 %. Social globalization consists of interpersonal, informational and cultural globalization each of them gets 33 % weights. Political globalization is measured with reference to the number of embassies and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), along with participation in UN peacekeeping missions. Economic, social and political globalizations are aggregated to the Globalization Index using again equal weights.

Sustainability Indices - Sustainable development is a challenging concept, its fundamentals are very clear which states the maintenance of the integrity of biophysical and natural systems. It ensures that a proper functioning economy must be present and cultivating or upholding human wellbeing and health is of utmost importance. Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations for a better life (Tang et al. 2020).

Human Development Index (HDI) - HDI highlights not only the economic development but also individuals and their abilities in the measurement of growth of a country. It incorporates three important areas of human development i.e. healthy and long life, knowledge accessibility and standard of living for evaluation of sustainability. Healthy living is measured by life expectancy at birth; knowledge is determined by an average of expected and mean years of schooling and standard of living by the gross national income per capita (Annon. 2018).

Environment Sustainability Index (ESI) - It has been constructed by taking into account four areas (i) energy consumption, (ii) carbon dioxide emission, (iii) forest area and (iv) mortality rate attributed to household and ambient air pollution. Environment Sustainability for 189 countries has been prepared by UNDP to construct the index by ranking countries based on their performance in the above four areas with the most efficient receiving rank one and so on. The ranks across all indicators are aggregated, attaching equal weights to obtain the Environment Sustainability Index. Lower values of ESI indicate greater efficiency in terms of environmental sustainability (Tnag et al. 2020).

Environmental Performance Index (EPI) - EPI focuses on two main environmental goals viz. (i) reducing environmental stresses to human health; (ii) endorsing ecosystem vitality and comprehensive natural resource management. Both of the goals also replicate the policy significances of environmental specialists around the globe and the international community’s intentions for the adoption of Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for ensuring environmental sustainability. These two goals are evaluated by combining 25 different performance indicators (Wendling 2018).

Red List Index (RLI) - RLI is a measure of the aggregate extinction risk of species across the globe. It is based on the “Red List of threatened species” published by International Union for Conservation of Nature. The range progresses varied from 0 to 1. 0 indicates the species is extinct whereas 1 indicates the species being least concern (IUCN 2019; Salvia et al 2019).

Sustainable Development Goal Index (SDGI) - The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) was adopted in 2015 by the UN and therefore, applicable to all the member countries of United States. In this index all the indicators of sustainability for each member are given a comparable score and a highest ranking of 100 is given in order to develop this index. The global SDG Index score by goal can be interpreted as the percentage of achievement. The difference between 100 and countries’ scores is, therefore, the distance in percentage that needs to be completed to achieve goals. For example, Sweden’s overall Index score 85 suggest that the country is on average 85% of the way to the best possible outcome across the 17 SDGs.


Sustainability is a complex term related with the sustainable development, which envisages meeting our own needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations. The term integrates environmental, social, economic, cultural and political resources in order to create thriving, healthy, diverse and resilient communities for the present as well as generations to come.
The concept was emerged in the year 1987 when World Commission of Environment and Development published report on “Our common futures”. Later United Nations linked it with human development in order to eradicate poverty, equitable distribution of wealth, reduce environmental pollution, prevents natural resource deterioration, conserve forests and biodiversity and climate change adaptation. In 2015 UN Member States adopted 17 goals as a part of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. Sustainability is a holistic approach encourages companies, industries and governments to adopt environmentally sound, energy efficient technologies and recycling of waste and pollution in order to establish systems that are compatible with the biosphere while integrating the social, economic and environmental potential of each region.
The sustainability approach is difficult to tie down in analytical terms, since it is concerned with tremendous variety of development objectives and achievable only, if taken seriously and implemented on a global scale.
Therefore, various sustainability criteria have been devised to assess opportunities and risks derived from economic, environmental, social, cultural and political dimensions of sustainability. To check and evaluate the fulfillment of sustainability criteria, as well as progress towards sustainability indicators tools used. In order to assess the sustainable development goals the UN General assembly in 2017 adopted global indicator framework includes 231 unique indicators. There are three main approaches used to analyze sustainability at the international organizations and institutions level. These approaches are based on appraisal of the environment, estimation of the environmental impact, natural resource accounting and government policies and economic outlook methods of assessment.
Sustainable development implies harmony on human-environment interactions and inters- generation responsibility, with emphasis on a harmonious relationship among population, resources, environment and development. Increasing population and consumptions of the resources are the main hurdles in achieving the sustainability. Thus, ethics can play an important role in attaining sustainability because sustainable society has a system of rules to limit depletion and degradation of resources and incentives facility to promote replenishment of resources. Environmental ethics is a huge field and exerts an influence on a large range of disciplines including environmental law, environmental sociology, ecological economics, ecology and environmental geography.
There are three important theories viz. anthropocentrism, environmental justice and sustainability and non-anthropocentrism of environmental ethics. Further, in the recent years globalization on one side has increases the significance of financial and monetary layouts but on the other side it has started to influence all aspects of community life, from culture to crime and from finance to religion. The overall impact of globalization on sustainability may be analysed using various indexes.

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