Source: Adapted from Swiss Statistics (2002) Measuring Sustainable Development, Insights into MONET, Neuch√Ętel, August.
Sustainable Development
Sustainable development is a very complex concept involving several interrelated issues, often known as the "three Es":
  • Social equity places the priority on satisfying the diversified needs of the population, such as food, health and education being among the most basic. Self-reliance is also often perceived as a desirable goal of social development, which if often in contradiction to economic concepts such as comparative advantages and intedependency. The issue of international solidarity is particularly paradoxical. It implies aid mechanisms to help nations/regions to cope with temporary crisis such as a drought, but in some cases it has become in recent decades a systematic and enduring redistribution mechanism leaning on "international aid" and a bureaucracy "managing" this aid. Maintaining human capital (knowledge, skills and capabilities) is mostly the responsibility of educational systems, but corporations also provide substantial training opportunities to their workforce.
  • Economic efficiency is a well known issue that has received a lot of emphasis as it promotes significant improvements in the welfare of populations. Key concepts are related to achieve or sustain economic growth, maximize profits, increase competitiveness and expand markets. Globalization has given a new dimension to economic development by enabling an extended range for comparative advantages to be exploited. However, like all economic processes, globalization promotes growth in a differential manner as regions or nations capture its opportunities differently.
  • Environmental responsibility tries to respect the carrying capacity of environmental systems, to conserve and recycle resources and to reduce the generation of wastes. The environmental footprint of human activities has received a lot of attention.
Although all these issues can be conceptualized, most of them are highly complex in their nature and interrelations.