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Defining sustainability

Defining sustainability

Defining sustainability

What is sustainability?

wrigley hall with cool schools sign

We get asked to define sustainability a lot, and the answer is wondrously complicated. The ASU School of Sustainability is a fascinating place, and every person you meet here will give you a slightly different definition of sustainability. That’s because sustainability really can be applied to almost anything in life.

Most people agree that sustainability has three fundamental pillars – sometimes called the triple bottom line or the Three Ps. First, something that is sustainable is beneficial to us and our neighbors – People. Second, it is good for the environment – Planet. Third, it makes economic sense – Profit.

At the School of Sustainability, students learn to look at problems and solutions systemically, understanding that no solution can be sustainable unless it fulfills all three sustainability pillars. Sustainability is not about doing “less bad.” It is about doing “more good.” Who can argue with that?

Leadership defining sustainability

Chris Boone, Dean of School of Sustainability

“Sustainability is improving human well being and ensuring social equity for present and future generations while safeguarding the planet’s life-supporting ecosystems.”

Chris Boone
Dean, School of Sustainability


 Michael Crow,  President of Arizona State University

“Sustainability is a concept with as much transformative potential as justice, liberty, and equality.”

Michael Crow
President, Arizona State University


Julie Ann Wrigley,  President and Chief Executive Officer, Julie Ann Wrigley Foundation

“Sustainability is larger than one person, one company, or one country. Its scope, scale, and importance demand unprecedented and swift solutions to environmental protection and other complex problems.”

Julie Ann Wrigley
President and Chief Executive Officer, Julie Ann Wrigley Foundation


Sander van der Leeuw,  Foundation Professor, School of Sustainability

“Living in harmony with our social and natural environment, based on a sense of justice and equity.”

Sander van der Leeuw
Foundation Professor, School of Sustainability


Charles L. Redman,   Founding Director and Professor, School of Sustainability

“Sustainability is an awareness of the connectivity of the world and the implications of our actions. It is finding solutions through innovative approaches, expanding future options by practicing environmental stewardship, building governance institutions that continually learn, and instilling values that promote justice..”

Charles L. Redman,
Founding Director and Professor, School of Sustainability


Brundtland Commission, 1987 report Our Common Future

“Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Brundtland Commission
1987 report, Our Common Future


Our students are defining sustainability