There are multiple definitions of sustainable development, however one often quoted is that proposed by the Brundtland Report of 1987, which defines it as "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". 
Sustainable development covers a broad range of topics based around the key pillars of "People, Planet, Prosperity". It covers not only environmental issues such as the use and management of natural resources, combatting climate change and the protection of biodiversity, but also social and economic aspects such as poverty reduction, promoting health and sustainable human settlements. Democracy and citizen participation are also crucial to sustainable development, as is the recognition of the role of indigenous people and their communities.
The concept of sustainable development is not new, and many cultures have been practicing "sustainable development" in some form for thousands of years. In the developed world however, with the emphasis strongly on growth, the concept of "sustainable development", while discussed as early as the 1950's, did not begin to receive strong international support until the 1970s or later.
1972 - UN Conference on the Human Environment leads to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The same year, the Club of Rome published its controversial Limits to Growth.
1987 - Our Common Future (the Brundtland Report) redefines and popularises the term "sustainable development".
1999 - Launch of the first Sustainability Index that tracks the performance of sustainability-driven companies worldwide.
2000 - The UN Millennium Summit leads to the agreement, by world leaders, to the Millennium Development Goals.
2002 - World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, marks 10 years since the Rio Earth Summit and leads to the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI).
2005 - The Kyoto Protocol enters into force, legally binding developed countries who have signed onto reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
2006 - Publication of the Stern Report on the Economics of Climate Change
2008 - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bali results in the "Bali Road Map"
For more details see the International Institute for Sustainable Development's timeline.
UN Division of Sustainable Development core sets
The UN Division of Sustainable Development lists the following topics as part of sustainable development:
Social and Economic
- Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (SCPP)
- Sustainable Tourism
- Human Settlements
Natural Resources Management
- Desertification and Drought
- Rural Development
- Oceans and Seas
- Climate Change
- Disaster Reduction and Management
- Toxic Chemicals
OECD core set of sustainable development indicators
- Produced assets
- R&D assets
- Financial assets
- Stock of human capital
- Investment in human capital
- Depreciation of human capital
- Income distribution
- Work Status/Employment
Indicators for Sustainable Development
Chapter 40 of Agenda 21, the road-map which emerged from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, calls on countries to develop their own measures of sustainable development. It states that:
"Commonly used indicators such as gross national product (GNP) and measurements of individual resource or pollution flows do not provide adequate indications of sustainability. Methods for assessing interactions between different environmental, demographic, social and developmental parameters are not sufficiently developed or applied. Indicators of sustainable development need to be developed to provide solid bases for decision-making at all levels and to contribute to a self-regulating sustainability of integrated environment and development systems." The 1992 UN Summit on Sustainable Development at Rio de Janeiro brought together the UN countries to discuss a framework for making the world more sustainable. The necessity to go beyond Gross domestic Product and to establish indicators pertaining to environmental sustainability, social justice and economic viability were thus laid under the tutelage of the United Nations through Agenda 21. The Rio+20 Summit of June 2012 helped people and nations alike in determining the progress made towards achieving sustainability.
The Bellagio Principles are a set of 10 principles to bridge the gap between assessing sustainable development theory and practice. They were initiated by the International Institute for Sustainable Development with a diverse group of measurement practitioners and researchers.
The Global Footprint Network is an international think-tank that measures the Ecological Footprint globally and for individual countries.
- Indicators of Development Sustainability, The World Bank
- Sustainable Humanity, Jeffrey D. Sachs in Project Syndicate: A World of Ideas.
- Our Common Future: From One Earth to One World; Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (also known as the Bruntland Report)
- Sustainable Development Indicators: Proposals for the way forward,, László Pintér, Peter Hardi, Peter Bartelmus, IISD, 2005
- Event:Second Global Summit on Sustainable Development and Biodiversity (GLOSS 2011)
- Event:Global Algae Biodiesel World India Programme 2011
- Event:Clean Energy World 2011
- Event:International Trade Fair for Renewable Energy
- Event:Arctic Tipping Points
- Event:2nd Save the Planet International Eco Forum
- Event: ASEAN Australian Engineering Congress 2011 (AAEC 2011)