Sus­tain­able Development

His­to­ry & Prin­ci­ple of Sustainability

The term ‘sus­tain­abil­i­ty’, as a con­cept for the con­scious use of avail­able resources, can be traced back to the Sax­on­ian min­ing admin­is­tra­tor, Hans Carl von Car­lowitz. In his book on forestry, ‘Sylvi­cul­tura oeco­nom­i­ca’, first pub­lished in 1713, Car­lowitz was the first to for­mu­late the prin­ci­ple of sus­tain­abil­i­ty, for secur­ing the long-term sup­ply of wood. His prin­ci­ple: Har­vest only as much wood as can be regen­er­at­ed, so that a per­ma­nent sup­ply of wood will remain available.

In the 20th cen­tu­ry, the Club of Rome’s 1972 study on the ‘lim­its of growth’ (by Den­nis Mead­ows, among oth­ers) marked an impor­tant mile­stone for the sci­en­tif­ic dis­cus­sion regard­ing glob­al devel­op­ment in rela­tion to the chal­lenges of such fac­tors as the short­age of resources need­ed for pop­u­la­tion growth, food short­ages, and envi­ron­men­tal degradation.

In 1987, the fun­da­men­tal def­i­n­i­tion of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment was estab­lished by the UN’s World Com­mis­sion on Envi­ron­ment and Devel­op­ment (WCED) in a report on future per­spec­tives enti­tled: ‘Our Com­mon Future’. Also known as the ‘Brundt­land Report’, it set forth the prin­ci­ple of sus­tain­able development:

A devel­op­ment that meets the needs of the present with­out com­pro­mis­ing the abil­i­ty of future gen­er­a­tions to meet their own needs.“Drei Säulen der Nachhaltigkeit

With the Brundt­land Report and the sub­se­quent 1992 UN Con­fer­ence for the Envi­ron­ment and Devel­op­ment in Rio de Janeiro (also known as the Earth Sum­mit or Rio Con­fer­ence), this def­i­n­i­tion of sus­tain­abil­i­ty became engrained: one in which social, eco­log­i­cal and eco­nom­ic goals were giv­en equal stand­ing as a foun­da­tion in the pur­suit of glob­al polit­i­cal strate­gies. Impor­tant results from the Rio con­fer­ence includ­ed, among oth­er things, Agen­da 21 – a plan of action for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, and the Unit­ed Nations Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (UNFCCC).

Oth­er organ­i­sa­tions, includ­ing the 1998 Enquete Com­mis­sion of the Ger­man Bun­destag, began to estab­lish the equiv­a­lence and simul­tane­ity of ecol­o­gy, eco­nom­ics and social respon­si­bil­i­ty as a three-pil­lar model.


Polit­i­cal goals of the UN: The Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs)

From 2000 to 2015, the Mil­len­ni­um Devel­op­ment Goals (MDGs) formed the frame­work for a glob­al devel­op­ment pol­i­cy. Ini­tial­ly, ver­i­fi­able bench­mark val­ues for a suc­cess­ful coop­er­a­tion regard­ing devel­op­ment were set with a total of eight objec­tives. Before the MDGs expired, there was a nego­ti­a­tion phase that last­ed sev­er­al years and was con­clud­ed with the World Sum­mit on Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment at the Unit­ed Nations head­quar­ters in New York in Sep­tem­ber 2015. More than 150 heads of state and gov­ern­ment as well as many min­is­ters and lead­ing politi­cians took part in this world sum­mit and the Unit­ed Nations agreed on the goals for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment with­in the frame­work of Agen­da 2030.

Agen­da 2030 for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment inte­grates the pre­vi­ous­ly sep­a­rate UN process­es on sus­tain­abil­i­ty and devel­op­ment. On the one hand, this con­cerns the process ini­ti­at­ed at the World Sum­mit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. On the oth­er hand, the process ini­ti­at­ed with the adop­tion of the MDGs. The basic idea behind Agen­da 2030 is that sus­tain­able devel­op­ment and true well-being — beyond pure mate­ri­al­ism — are only pos­si­ble if the envi­ron­ment and cli­mate are pro­tect­ed and pre­served. If all peo­ple are equal and no one is exploited.

The MDGs will be replaced by 17 tar­gets includ­ing 169 objec­tives and are to be achieved between Jan­u­ary 2016 and Decem­ber 2030. They are referred to as Glob­al Goals or Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs), which set spe­cif­ic and ver­i­fi­able objec­tives for more sus­tain­able development.

The imple­men­ta­tion of Agen­da 2030 in and con­duct­ed by Germany

Agen­da 2030 equal­ly applies to indus­tri­al­ized, emerg­ing and devel­op­ing coun­tries. All UN mem­ber states have the respon­si­bil­i­ty to act accord­ing­ly. A major respon­si­bil­i­ty rests with indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries. More­over, coun­tries such as Ger­many are request­ed to sup­port oth­er coun­tries in imple­ment­ing their goals with the help of an appro­pri­ate devel­op­ment coop­er­a­tion with oth­er countries.

Agen­da 2030 and the SDGs are aimed at gov­ern­ments, civ­il soci­ety, the pri­vate sec­tor and acad­e­mia world­wide. The Ger­man gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted itself to imple­ment­ing the goals of Agen­da 2030 at a fed­er­al lev­el and has decid­ed to fur­ther devel­op its fed­er­al sus­tain­abil­i­ty strat­e­gy (first edi­tion 2002, last progress report 2012). The new edi­tion adopt­ed in Jan­u­ary 2017 is known as the Ger­man Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Strat­e­gy (DNS). It describes the imple­men­ta­tion of Agen­da 2030 in and con­duct­ed by Ger­many and also with Germany’s part­ner coun­tries. In this con­text, sus­tain­able devel­op­ment is under­stood as a joint task that requires long-term joint com­mit­ment on the part of all stake­hold­ers. These include the fed­er­al states, local author­i­ties, busi­ness­es, acad­e­mia and civ­il society.

The DNS is struc­tured accord­ing to the 17 inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ment goals of the Unit­ed Nations. Specif­i­cal­ly, these include pover­ty reduc­tion, equal rights, respon­si­ble con­sumerism, cli­mate pro­tec­tion as well as peace and fair­ness. To illus­trate the impact of the sus­tain­able devel­op­ment project, sus­tain­abil­i­ty assess­ments are car­ried out using clear­ly defined indi­ca­tors with­in the DNS framework.

The Ger­man con­struc­tion indus­try is com­mit­ted to sustainability

Con­serv­ing resources, pre­serv­ing ecosys­tems and fight­ing cli­mate change are — among many oth­ers — com­po­nents of the indi­ca­tor sys­tem of DNS. The con­struc­tion indus­try offers enor­mous poten­tial, as resource and ener­gy require­ments, green­house gas emis­sions and waste gen­er­a­tion are par­tic­u­lar­ly high in this sec­tor. The Ger­man con­struc­tion indus­try accepts this respon­si­bil­i­ty by mak­ing effi­cient and envi­ron­men­tal­ly respon­si­ble use of resources through­out the entire val­ue chain. Sus­tain­abil­i­ty in con­struc­tion is based on a three-pil­lar mod­el. In addi­tion to eco­log­i­cal, eco­nom­ic and socio-cul­tur­al aspects, tech­ni­cal qual­i­ty and process qual­i­ty are of par­tic­u­lar impor­tance. The Sus­tain­able Build­ing Rat­ing Sys­tem (BNB) and oth­er build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems describe and eval­u­ate the qual­i­ty of build­ings with regard to their sus­tain­abil­i­ty on the basis of stan­dard­ized criteria.