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:
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.
Agenda 21 provided detailed mandates for action to combat the deterioration of the situation for humans and the environment, and to guarantee the sustainable use of natural resources. With Agenda 21, it was primarily the governments of the individual states who made the commitment to implement national environmental plans, with the participation of municipalities, NGOs and institutions. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) plans to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and prevent a dangerous disturbance in the world’s climate.
In September 2015, the UN adopted ‘Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development’ at the UN summit in New York. This future-oriented agreement lists 17 global development targets that are based on the three dimensions of sustainability – ecology, economics and social responsibility. Agenda 2030 has been in force since January 2016.
In the context of European politics for the promotion of growth and stimulation of the labour market, Strategy Europe 2020 was established, which is based on intelligent, sustainable, and integrated growth. One of its seven flagship initiatives is ‘Preserving Resources in Europe’. In the implementation of long-term goals, for instance, that of reducing greenhouse gases by 80 % to 95 % (compared to 1990), the building industry plays a crucial role.