Helen and Caroline Mathew

Sustainability and sustainability, different but inseparable

Helen and Caroline Mathew

Sustainability and sustainability, different but inseparable

We would like to begin this article by expressing our deepest gratitude to our friend Antonio Santos, president of the Tourism and Society Think Tank. Antonio Santos del Valle, friend and teacher, encourages us to continue studying with his different vision of reality and the future. His dedication and innovative perspective have been a constant source of inspiration, motivating us to delve deeper into crucial topics such as sustainability and sustainability.

In the context of the growing global concern for the environment, several actions have been implemented by governments and private entities. In this scenario, the terms “sustainability” and “sustainability” are often used interchangeably. However, these concepts, although related, have distinctive characteristics that are crucial to understand.

Currently, this concept is understood from an ecological and economic perspective, and refers to the ability to maintain certain processes or systems over time without depleting resources or causing significant deterioration of the environment. Sustainable development implies using current resources in a way that does not compromise their availability for future generations. In other words, sustainable processes seek to preserve, protect and conserve natural resources both now and in the future.

The concept of sustainability, on the other hand, was popularized by the 1987 Brundtland Report, which defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This approach focuses on social and economic advancement, ensuring a healthy and productive life for human beings, without endangering natural resources in the long term.

Principles of sustainability

The American ecological economist Herman Daly, who was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1996, defined several fundamental principles for sustainability:

In addition, Daly emphasizes the importance of promoting technologies that increase the productivity of natural resources and reducing those that require a greater amount of resources to produce the same thing. 

In essence, the relationship between the growth of human activities (which involve the consumption of natural resources), the resilience of the ecosystem and actions to renew or mitigate the impact on resources, determines whether a process is sustainable or contributes to environmental deterioration.

Principles of sustainability

Sustainable development is a concept that extends beyond the simple conservation of resources. It includes a holistic approach that encompasses social, economic and environmental aspects. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in the 2030 Agenda, are a clear manifestation of this global approach. 

These 17 goals are interrelated and range from the elimination of poverty and inequality, to the promotion of quality education, health, justice and peace, and the protection of the environment.

The SDGs reflect the vision of a world where all people can live a dignified and prosperous life without compromising the health of the planet. In this sense, sustainability seeks a balance between present and future needs, promoting human well-being and social equity, along with environmental conservation.

SDG controversy to consider

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while widely supported, have generated controversy in several areas. One of the main points of criticism is their ambitious nature and the difficulty of global implementation. The SDGs encompass a broad range of objectives, from eradicating poverty to climate action, which some consider too extensive and complex to achieve effectively within the established timeframe.

Additionally, there are concerns about the funding required to achieve these goals. The scale of the necessary investment is enormous, and many countries, especially developing ones, lack the financial resources and infrastructure needed. This raises issues of equity and justice, as poorer nations might fall behind, perpetuating existing inequalities.

Another controversy focuses on the lack of accountability mechanisms. Although the SDGs set clear targets, there are not always robust structures in place to monitor and evaluate progress, making it difficult to measure the true impact of the initiatives. Furthermore, some critics argue that the SDGs do not sufficiently address the structural roots of global problems, such as rampant capitalism and neoliberal economic policies, which may conflict with the principles of sustainability and equity.

There are also debates about the influence of corporate interests on the SDG agenda. Some large companies publicly support the SDGs, but their internal practices may contradict sustainability principles, generating skepticism about their genuine commitment. In summary, while the SDGs represent a positive vision for the future, the controversy surrounding their implementation, funding, and accountability presents significant challenges that must be addressed to achieve truly sustainable development.

Nevertheless, although sustainability and sustainability are interrelated and are often used interchangeably, there are nuances that we believe must be taken into consideration and it is necessary to differentiate them:




Challenges and opportunities



Although sustainability and sustainability are related terms, each has its own focus and objective. Sustainability focuses on the ability to maintain natural resources over time, while sustainability encompasses a broader, more holistic approach, including social, economic and environmental well-being. Understanding these differences is essential to implementing policies and practices that promote truly balanced and fair development, ensuring the health of the planet and the well-being of all present and future generations.

Authors: Helen and Caroline Mathew

Researchers and writers

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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