Sustainable development—indicators and goals
Produced in partnership with Ardea International
Sustainable development—indicators and goals

The following Environment practice note produced in partnership with Ardea International provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Sustainable development—indicators and goals
  • Defining sustainable development
  • Sustainability indicators
  • Their origin
  • Limitations of SDIs
  • SDIs in the UK
  • Historical progression
  • The Sustainable Development Goals
  • What are the SDGs?
  • How will they be implemented?
  • More...

Defining sustainable development

The concept of sustainable development and what exactly it covers is the subject of much debate. Most definitions of sustainable development rely on some variation of the so-called ‘Brundtland Definition’ and the ‘three pillars’ concept, also known as the ‘triple bottom line’ of sustainable development. However, without a consistent approach to sustainable development, it is difficult to know how to achieve it or to identify precisely when, if ever, we have achieved it.

For definitions of sustainable development, see the following Practice Notes:

  1. Sustainable development—definition and application at international level

  2. Sustainable development—definition and application at European Union (EU) level

  3. Sustainable development—definition and application at UK level

Sustainability indicators

Sustainability indicators are a mechanism by which to measure (or at least an attempt to measure) progress towards the policy goal of sustainable development.

Their origin

Following the conclusion of the ‘Earth Summit’ held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992, countries were advised to develop their own sets of sustainable development indicators (SDIs) which would:

  1. coincide with their respective national conditions and priorities, and

  2. have as their end the creation of self-regulating and integrated sustainable systems

Agenda 21 also encouraged the development of an international set of sustainable development indicators, the first of which was completed in 1996 by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. These are intended to inform national policy and sustainable development strategy sets, in order to

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