Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 67–83 | Cite as

Strategic thinking on sustainability: challenges and sectoral roles



This paper focuses on identified challenges for sustainable development across various sectors and the actions needed by different institutions and individuals for the achievement of a sustainable path. For finding solutions that impede sustainable development, emphasis is given to collaborative, inter- and trans-disciplinary problem-solving approaches. The ‘ecological modernization’ view is based on the belief that science and technology will result in continuous improvement in human welfare, while the emerging postmodern ‘ecological paradigm’ also emphasizes harmony with nature and other actors. Global societies are in the midst of a number of challenges: (1) implementation of existing and new hard- and soft-law instruments, (2) the degradation of natural resources, (3) an inadequate global mechanism for handling environmental and social responsibilities by the international community, (4) an unbalanced distribution of wealth, locally and internationally, (5) unethical and unsustainable business practices, (6) consequent unethical and unsustainable consumer practices, (7) selective application of ethical principles by rich countries and (8) the absence of norms of good conduct by powerful and wealthy peoples pertaining to sustainable development. Governments, civil societies, academicians, indigenous peoples, communities, businesses and international organizations need to become engaged in the formulation and enforcement of environmentally and ecologically sound development policies along with relevant research, education, training, awareness and a change in social values as provided in the Earth Charter to support actions for sustainable development.


Sustainable development Challenges Strategies Actions Values 


  1. Ahmad, B., Ahmad, M., & Gill, Z. A. (1998). Restoration of soil health for achieving sustainable growth in agriculture. The Pakistan Development Review, 37, 997–1015.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, T. F. H., Tainter, J. A., & Hoekstra, T. W. (1999). Supply side sustainability. System Research and Behavioral Science, 16, 403–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anand, S., & Sen, A. (2000). Human development and economic sustainability. World Development, 28, 2029–2049.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Atici, C. (2009). Carbon emission in Central and Eastern Europe: Environmental Kuznets curve and implications for sustainable development. Sustainable Development, 17, 155–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bansal, P. (2002). The corporate challenges of sustainable development. The Academy of Management Executive, 16, 122–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baumgartner, R. J., & Korhonen, J. (2010). Strategic thinking for sustainable development. Sustainable Development, 18, 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brundtland, G. H. (1987). Our common future. World commission on environment and development. June 8, 1987, Nairobi, Kenya. http://www.regjeringen.no/upload/SMK/Vedlegg/Taler%20og%20artikler%20av%20tidligere%20statsministre/Gro%20Harlem%20Brundtland/1987/Presentation_of_Our_Common_Future_to_UNEP.pdf. Accessed 19 Oct 2010.
  8. Connor, S. (2010). Countries join forces to save life on Earth historic deal aims to halt mass extinctions. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/countries-join-forces-to-save-life-on-earth-2120487.html. Accessed 6 Nov 2010.
  9. Eden, S. E. (1994). Using sustainable development: The business case. Global Environmental Change, 4, 160–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Edgar, L., Marshall, C., & Bassett, M. (2006). Partnership: Putting good governance principle in practice. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Institute on Governance.Google Scholar
  11. Ehrlich, P. R., & Holdren, J. P. (1971). Impact of population growth. Science, 171, 1212–1217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gorbachev, M., & Strong, M. (2002). Globalization and sustainable development: Is ethics the missing link? Synthesis Report Green Cross International and The Earth Council, Earth Dialogues Forum Lyon, Feb 21–23, 2002.Google Scholar
  13. Gostin, L. O. (2007). A proposal for a framework convention on global health. Journal of International Economic Law, 10, 989–1008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guth, J. H. (2008). Cumulative impacts: Death knell for cost benefit analysis in environmental decisions. Barry Law Review, 11, 23–57.Google Scholar
  15. Halbrook, J. (2009). Meeting challenges to sustainable development through science and technology education. Science Education International, 20, 44–59.Google Scholar
  16. Hansen, J. W. (1996). Is agriculture sustainability a useful concept? Agricultural Systems, 50, 117–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. ILO. (2008). Global challenges for sustainable development: Strategies for green jobs. ILO background note G8 Labour and Employment Ministers Conference, Niigata, Japan, May 11–13, 2008.Google Scholar
  18. International Food Policy Research Institute. (1995). A 2020 vision for food, agriculture, and the environment: The vision, challenge, and recommended action. 1200 Seventeenth Street, N.W. Washington D. C. USA.Google Scholar
  19. International Institute for Sustainable Development. (2003). Advancing sustainable development in Canada policy issues and research needs. Policy Research Initiative, Privy Council Office, Government of Canada, Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  20. Kalantari, K., Fami, H. S., Asadi, A., Qasemi, I., & Chubchian, S. (2008). Major challenges of iranian rural communities for achieving sustainable development. American Journal of Agricultural and Biological Sciences, 3, 724–728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Karr, J. R. (2008). Protecting society from itself: Reconnecting ecology and economy. In C. L. Soskolne, L. Westra, L. J. Kotzé, B. Mackey, W. E. Rees, & R. Westra (Eds.), Sustaining life on earth: environmental and human health through global governance (pp. 95–108). Lanham, Maryland, USA: Lexington Books, A Division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 482 pp.Google Scholar
  22. Khor, M. (1994). Land degradation causes $10 billion loss to South Asia annually. http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/land-ch.htm. Accessed 1 Jan 2011.
  23. McIsaac, G. (1994). Sustainability and sustainable agriculture conceptual evolution, competing paradigms and a possible consensus. In G. McIsaac, & W. R. Edwards (Eds.), Sustainable agriculture in the american midwest lessons from the past prospects for the future (pp. 9–34). Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 291 pp.Google Scholar
  24. Orr, D. W. (2002). Four challenges of sustainability. Conservation Biology, 16, 1457–1460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pereira, T. (2009). Sustainability: An integral engineering design approach. Renewable and Sustainability Energy Reviews, 13, 1133–1137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pezzoli, K. (1997). Sustainable development: A transdisciplinary overview of the literature. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 40, 549–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pimentel, D., & Pimentel, M. (2008). The future: World population and food security. In C. L. Soskolne, L. Westra, L. J. Kotzé, B. Mackey, W. E. Rees, & R. Westra (Eds.), Sustaining life on earth: environmental and human health through global governance (pp. 285–298). Lanham, Maryland, USA: Lexington Books, A Division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 482 pp.Google Scholar
  28. Pretty, J. N., Morison, J. I. L., & Hine, R. E. (2003). Reducing food poverty by increasing agricultural sustainability in developing countries. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 95, 217–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rees, W. E. (2008). Toward sustainability with justice: are human nature and history on side. In C. L. Soskolne, L. Westra, L. J. Kotzé, B. Mackey, W. E. Rees, & R. Westra (Eds.), Sustaining life on earth: environmental and human health through global governance (pp. 81–93). Lanham, Maryland, USA: Lexington Books, 482 pp.Google Scholar
  30. Roseland, M. (2000). Sustainable community development: Integrating environmental, economic and social objectives. Progress in Planning, 54, 73–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ross, M. L. (2004). How do natural resources influence civil war? Evidence from thirteen cases. International Organization, 58, 35–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Saadatian, O., Tahir, O. M., & Dola, K. B. (2010). Identifying challenges in implementing sustainable practices in a developing nation. Journal of Sustainable Development, 5, 107–116.Google Scholar
  33. Schaller, N. (1993). The concept of agricultural sustainability. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 46, 89–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schmandt, J., & Ward, C. H. (2000). Sustainable development the challenge of transition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Singh, B., Singh, Y., & Nayyar, V. K. (2003). Rice-wheat cropping systems in the indo-gangetic plains of India: Characteristic features, fertilizer use and nutrient management issues. In Y. Singh, B. Singh, V. K. Nayyar, & J. Singh (Eds.), Nutrient management for sustainable rice-wheat cropping system (pp. 1–17). National Agricultural Technology Project. New Delhi, India: Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Ludhiana, Punjab, India: Punjab Agricultural University.Google Scholar
  36. Smith, C. S., & McDonald, G. T. (1998). Assessing the sustainability of agriculture at the planning stage. Journal of Environmental Management, 52, 15–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Soskolne, C. L., Westra, L., Kotze, L. J., Mackey, B., Rees, W. E., & Westra, R. (2008). Sustaining life on earth: environmental and human health through global governance. Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  38. Speth, J. G. (1992). A post-rio compact. Foreign Policy, 88, 145–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. The Earth Charter. (2000). http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/pages/Read-the-Charter.html. Accessed 20 Oct 2010.
  40. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. (1992a). Science for sustainable development. http://www.habitat.igc.org/agenda21/a21-35.htm. Accessed 23 Aug 2010.
  41. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. (1992b). Recognizing and strengthening the role of indigenous people and their communities. http://habitat.igc.org/agenda21/a21-26.htm. Accessed 23 Aug 2010.
  42. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. (1992c). Strengthening the role of business and industry. http://habitat.igc.org/agenda21/a21-27.htm. Accessed 23 Aug 2010.
  43. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. (1992d). Strengthening the role of non-governmental? organizations, partners for sustainable development. http://habitat.igc.org/agenda21/a21-30.htm. Accessed 23 Aug 2010.
  44. The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board. (2009). Sustainability, benefit to the community and ethics in the assessment of genetically modified organisms: Implementation of the concepts set out in sections 1 and 10 of the Norwegian gene Technology Act. In R. Sissel, & C. Linnestad (Eds.), Sentrum, Oslo, Norway: The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board.Google Scholar
  45. Uphoff, N. (1992). Local institutions and participation for sustainable development. Gatekeeper Series No. 31 International Institute for Environment and Development. http://www.iied.org/pubs/display.php?o=6045IIED. Accessed 2 Aug 2010.
  46. Utting, P. (2000). Business responsibility for sustainable development. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, UNRISD, Geneva, Switzerland.Google Scholar
  47. Valentine, S. V. (2010). Disarming the population bomb. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 17, 120–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Vollenbroek, F. A. (2002). Sustainable development and the challenge of innovation. Journal of Cleaner Production, 10, 215–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. von Werlhof, C. (2010). Neoliberal globalization: Is there an alternative to plundering the earth? In M. Michel Chossudovsky, & A. G. Marshall (Eds.), The global economic crisis. The great depression of the XXI Century. Montreal: Global Research Publishers. Centre for Research on Globalization. 416 http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24403. Accessed 4 May 2011.
  50. Wang, X., Zhang, J., Liu, J., Wang, G., He, R., Elmahdi, A., et al. (2011). Water resources planning and management based on system dynamics: A case study of Yulin city. Environment, Development and Sustainable, 13, 331–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weil, R. R. (1990). Defining and using the concept of sustainable agriculture. Journal of Agronomic Education, 19, 126–130.Google Scholar
  52. Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2010). The spirit level: Why greater equality make societies stronger. London: Bloomsbury Press.Google Scholar
  53. World Environment Organization. (2009). http://www.world.org/. Accessed 1 May 2011.
  54. York, R., & Rosa, E. A. (2003). Key challenges to ecological modernization theory. Organization & Environment, 16, 273–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. York, R., Rosa, E. A., & Dietz, T. (2003). Footprints on the earth: The environmental consequences of modernity. American Sociological Review, 68, 279–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yunlong, C., & Smith, B. (1994). Sustainability in agriculture: a general review. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 49, 299–307. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zahid, D. M., & Nawaz, A. (2007). Comparative water use efficiency of Eucalyptus camaldulensis versus Dalbergia sisso in Pakistan. International Journal of Agriculture and Biology, 9, 540–544.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Waseem Ahmad
    • 1
  • Colin L. Soskolne
    • 2
  • Tanvir Ahmed
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Rural EconomyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.School of Public HealthUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsForman Christian College (A Chartered University)LahorePakistan

Personalised recommendations