Sustainable development is successful only when it improves people's well-being without degrading the environment.
“Development” is shorthand for committing to well-being for all. “Sustainable” implies that such development must occur within what the planet’s ecosystems are able to replenish, year after year. We need to secure people’s well-being within the means of nature. This is how UNEP, WWF, and IUCN stipulated the conditions for sustainable development in their landmark report “Caring for the Earth.”
This reasoning is also applicable to businesses, as explained in the visual e-book produced with Schneider Electric. It argues one-planet prosperity is becoming essential for successful business strategies. This is also emphasized in our Earth Overshoot Day 2022 theme on circular businesses.
Kate Raworth has playfully pushed this thinking, advocating for a “safe and just operating space.” She depicts the sustainable development challenge as a two-dimensional doughnut, the inner edge representing the minimal social foundation and the outer edge of the doughnut the upper ecological ceiling (Raworth 2017). Therefore, the “flesh” of the doughnut corresponds to the “safe and just operating space,” the same space depicted as the blue “global sustainable development” box in the lower right corner of the HDI-Footprint diagram. The clever and catchy depiction of a doughnut inspired her to promote this approach as “doughnut economics,” an economic theory with the purpose of supporting human wellbeing within the constraints of our planet.