On 25 September 2015, at the 2015 World Summit on Sustainable Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” were adopted accordingly by the United Nations General Assembly. This resolution is considered to be the most ambitious agenda “against poverty and for the planet” ever decided upon.
The SDGs are the outcome of a global political process, and the international development after 2015, which brought an intensified opposition against multi-national agreements. However, the SDGs are the best basis we have for policies to work for a sustainable future. It is thus in the hands of the UN member states and all societal, private, and corporate actors to focus, in addition to the 169 SDG targets, on pressures and impacts in their sustainability policies and strategies. For doing so, actors need support to identify the mechanisms leading to unsustainability and principles describing how a certain system can be more sustainable.The Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD) describes these mechanisms, these sustainability principles, andstrategies to implement them, and is concrete enough to support decision-makers, helping them choose the most sustainable activities and formulate relevant questions. The FSSD-sustainability principles can improve our understanding of sustainability and the roots of unsustainability. If these principles are considered, the outcome is a sustainable system that leads to improved sustainability performance. The FSSD sustainability principles state that in a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing
- the concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust (e.g., fossil carbon, metals);
- the concentrations of substances produced by society (e.g., nitrogen compounds, endocrine disrupters);
- the degradation by physical means (e.g., large-scale clear-cutting of forests, over-fishing); and, in such a society,
- people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs (e.g., decreasing trust through abuse of political and economic power). This fourth principle has been further developed to argue that, in a sustainable society, people are not subject to structural obstacles to health (e.g., dangerous working conditions, insufficient rest times), influence (e.g., by suppression of free speech, neglect of opinions), competence (e.g., by obstacles for education, insufficient development options), impartiality (e.g., by discrimination, unfair treatment), and meaning (e.g., by suppression of cultural expression).
These FSSD-principles can be used by all actors who want to implement the SDGs in their area of responsibility, as these principles allow to address sustainability pressures and impacts missing in the SDGs.
Two essential characteristics must not be forgotten within the discussion about sustainable development:
First, all human systems (e.g., societies, communities, economies, and markets) are part of the biosphere. The embedded nature of these systems in the natural environment is crucial and calls upon humans to respect the earth’s ecological carrying capacity. The fundamental laws of thermodynamics show that all processes are irreversible and dependent on energy, which is provided by renewable or fossil energy sources available in nature. The embedded nature of this system can be called “physicity”, a term that reveals the physical dependence of human beings and human systems on these energy sources.
Second, sustainability is a system property and not attributable to the characteristics of a single object alone; instead, it is dependent on both the characteristics of this single object and its relations to other objects and systems.
The Sustainable Development Goals present business with the opportunity to demonstrate leadership, apply its knowledge and creativity and provide innovative solutions that ensure a sustainable, resilient and inclusive future for all. Industry peers and value chain partners can leverage the universal framework of the the Sustainable Development Goals to inform their actions, identify new forms of collaboration, unlock investment opportunities and accelerate the transition to 2030. Mt. Everest Forest Botanicals Alliance is the grassroots based national platform for the forest sector value chain to build and share business solutions to lead sustainable development in the forest products sector in Nepal. Its mission is to advance the bio-economy and a thriving forest sector that sustains healthy productive forests and people’s well-being.