What Is Sustainability
Much has been written about the topic of sustainability. Although there are many definitions of sustainability, typically the common theme between them is the implicit need to integrate the competing, but equally important, social, environmental, economic and cultural interests, as shown below.
One of the more commonly cited definitions of sustainability is the one released by the Brundtland Commission in 1987:
"development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
In addition to the four overlapping spheres of sustainability, the concept of sustainability is sometimes depicted as a three legged stool. In this depiction, sustainability or the stool's seat is supported by three legs, specifically the environment, the economy and social equity.
Environmental sustainability may entail such things as efficient water management, elimination of water pollution, efficient storm water management, energy-efficient building and community design, greenhouse gas emission reduction, solid waste management and protecting biodiversity¹.
Economic sustainability typically includes economic development by attracting new investment, supporting tourism, maintaining the vibrancy of the downtown and improving the tax base.
Housing affordability, labour force growth, community health and crime reduction are some of the characteristics that typically characterize social sustainability. Cultural sustainability focuses on heritage or cultural preservation through such initiatives as the preservation/restoration of heritage buildings.
Although the Town's Green Plan provides a solid basis for guiding the Town, and the community on developing and implementing future "green" strategies and actions, the Plan is predominately focused on the environment rather than on the broader concept of sustainability, reflecting the mandate of the Mayor's Green Plan Task Force.
The Town's Strategic Plan refers to the broader concept of sustainability through the Plan's Strategic Directions of (i) Foster a Healthy Community; (ii) Preserve, Protect and Enhance Our Environment; (iii) Foster a Prosperous Economy; (iv) Preserve, Protect and Promote our Distinctive History; (v) Preserve, Protect and Enhance our Countryside; (vi) Achieve Sustainable Growth; and (vii) Provide Sustainable Infrastructure & Services.
To most appropriately reflect Council's commitment to broader sustainability, there is a need to expand from looking only through the 'environmental lens' to looking through all four sustainability lenses, specifically the environmental, social, economic and cultural lenses. Looking at matters through these four lenses will result in more fulsome evaluations and further advance the Town along the journey of sustainability.¹ Association of Municipalities of Ontario, A Sustainability Planning Toolkit for Municipalities in Ontario, June 4, 2008.