What is Sustainability?

Sustainable development marries two important themes: that environmental protection does not preclude economic development and that economic development must be ecologically viable now and in the long run. Common use of the term “sustainability” began with the 1987 publication of the World Commission on Environment and Development report, Our Common Future. Also known as the Brundtland Report, this document defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This concept of sustainability encompasses ideas, aspirations and values that continue to inspire public and private organizations to become better stewards of the environment and that promote positive economic growth and social objectives. The principles of sustainability can stimulate technological innovation, advance competitiveness, and improve our quality of life.”

- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

BUMC Sustainability

For the BUMC, sustainability is an operating process that lets us use resources for a long time without depleting them, overstepping the environment’s limits, or damaging other sectors of society.

Sustainability for our purposes covers three general areas:

  1. Needs:
    Meeting our present needs without compromising our ability to meet future needs;
  2. Capacity:
    Respecting the environment’s capacity to support us, in terms of energy supply and natural resources, and working within that capacity;
  3. Connectivity:
    Understanding that the actions of one institution affect a much wider sector of society than just the institution itself.


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October 27, 2008
Primary teaching affiliate
of BU School of Medicine