Not that these terms are adversarial but I do see them as a bit different from each other. So what are the differences that I see and what does each one mean to me?
I see sustainability as the things that we do to keep us viable on a ‘personal’ level. These may be the processes we follow to produce what we create or the service we provide or how we live. Do we use the most efficient method? Do we avoid creating or discarding waste? Do we use materials that promote the sustainable performance of our vendors? Does our product or service help others be more sustainable? And in carrying out this work, do we do it by creating the least impact? Do we create the smallest carbon footprint we can?
So I see sustainability as the work we do at the ‘individual’ level as a person, company or organization, to help maximize the work of others and expand on the work we do ourselves.
Sustainable Development on the other hand, I see is the collective effort. It is the work we can do together to create an environment that provides for a good quality of life for more people by looking at the future through many and multiple points of view. The future is what we build today but if we are not good stewards, there can be little future. Our task then is to find better and more effective and efficient ways to develop sustainably, and satisfy more people now and tomorrow. An exciting challenge.
How can we develop more sustainably? We have to work together. We have to look to the future and see what we would like that future to look like. It will not be a complete picture but it will help spark our collective innovation and creativity. Perhaps not just on an individual basis but more on a group basis. In other words, my ideas may help you improve yours, and his may help me improve mine, and hers may help improve theirs, all in a more open and contributing effort so that we can learn and improve exponentially, as time is of the essence.
When we look at things through the lense of sustainable development it is to our best interest to pool our human capital and financial resources together to improve our outcome. No one has the total resources to make a single decision to create total change. However, if we use our desired outcome to light the path we want to follow, more people, groups and communities will be able to align in the same direction and we will be able to reach the ‘destination’ more rapidly and with greater economies.
There will be change. There will be casualties from the current point of view. As we advance, we will begin to align in our objectives so that we can measure our decisions with the least detrimental outcomes and most rapid and precise movement for greater collective results.
How will we measure these results? Perhaps we can look at happiness and well-being.
Will that destination be our ultimate goal? I hope not. I hope it is only the marker to our next stop, the next turn of our ongoing cycle of evolution. I hope that as we continue to grow toward meeting that new stop, we are already creatively innovating ways in which we will reach the following destination along the way.