What is sustainable development? Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report:
"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Sustainability is the foundation for today’s leading global framework for international cooperation—the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In June 2022, environmental leaders from around the world met to take stock of where we've been and where we are heading, with the goal of galvanizing momentum for the UN Decade of Action for achieving the SDGs.
These conferences are major milestones in sustainable development governance. But their real test comes from the work that happens every day, from individuals and local communities to international organizations and beyond.
At IISD, we are honoured to be part of the community working towards a world where people and the planet thrive.
A Visual History of Sustainable Development
From Stockholm 1972 to Stockholm+50: Why these milestones matter
The Legacy of the Stockholm Conference
In 1972, the Stockholm Conference set off a chain of events that rewrote how countries tackle environmental challenges. How do we take the lessons of the past half century and apply them to our triple planetary crisis?
The Significance of Stockholm+50
Ambassador Johanna Lissinger-Peitz of Sweden explains why it matters that we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference and how we live up to its vision.
What Comes After Stockholm+50?
World leaders will mark half a century since the 1972 Stockholm Conference... and then depart. What comes next as we face accelerating societal and environmental challenges?
Sustainable Development Governance: Then and now
Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin reporters have analyzed the highs and lows of the past half-century of international environmental diplomacy, from the original United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972 until the present.
Still Only One Earth: Lessons from 50 years of UN sustainable development policy
A policy brief series takes stock of how environmental progress has been fostered in the past and how to leverage those lessons in current crises.
Stockholm and the Birth of Environmental Diplomacy
A 1972 UN conference began modern international cooperation on the environment. What lessons should we take from it amid mounting global crises?
Stockholm+50: Weaving global environmental governance
The Stockholm Conference in 1972 created the framework that still guides how countries negotiate environmental deals. How do we fulfill its vision?
Achieving the ambition of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the SDGs requires action on all fronts—governments, businesses, civil society, and people everywhere all have a role to play.
To find out more about where things stand ahead of the 2030 deadline, explore our SDG Knowledge Hub—an online resource centre for daily news, original commentary from our experts, guest articles from key actors in SDG implementation, and a calendar of upcoming events related to the 2030 Agenda.
IISD's Work Areas
IISD is guided by five priorities that we deem ripe for transformation, where shifts in policy have the potential to change the nature of the game within this decade.
Address the causes of climate change and adapt to its impact.
Support the sustainable management of our natural resources.
Foster fair and sustainable economies.
Build the capacity to act together on sustainability.
Deliver insights that spark action on sustainable development.