The most well-known definition of sustainability may be found in the 1987 report of the Brundtland Commission: ‘sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. At the 2005 World Summit it was noted that this requires the reconciliation of environmental, social and economic demands – the ‘three pillars’ of sustainability.
There is abundant evidence that humankind is currently living unsustainably. We are jeopardising the living conditions of future generations, e.g. by excessive use of resources and excessive use of the environment as a sink for greenhouse gas emissions etc. At the same time, social friction is increasing in many areas. It has become clear that these problems cannot be solved by few breakthrough solutions alone (“electric cars!”, “community owned renewable power!”). Instead, economically viable solutions have to be found for many sectors, products and applications.