What is Sustainability?

It is widely agreed that the international community must act immediately to address issues such as the onset of climate change, unsustainable consumption of resources, an increasing rate of species extinction, the incidence of poverty and the pollution of regional and local ecosystems.

At North Sydney Council, we are committed to working with the community to create a sustainable society - environmentally, socially and economically. We recognise that social, economic and ecological wellbeing in our locality depends upon our collective ability to respond to global environmental crises.

This is a call to all North Sydney residents to think globally and act locally!


What is sustainability?

Sustainability is a desired state in which we live within our means to ensure the long-term wellbeing of our society and the planet. A complex and malleable vision, sustainability is many things to many people. The following are some responses from members of our North Sydney community.

Living in harmony with your environment, using the resources available and living within your means.

It means being able to live in perpetuity and being a part of the environment, not using it up.

It's a way to live your life with a view to leave this place on Earth in such a condition that you would not be afraid  for your kid's future.

It is about sharing with others.

Changing the patterns of human activity so that our communities promote the long-term health and integrity of humanity and the planet is commonly referred to as Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD). Council's policies, management and planning prioritise ESD in accordance with the NSW Local Government Act 1993 and as part of a coordinated response.



In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development, in a report titled Our Common Future (the Brundtland Report), recognised that sustainable development meant adopting lifestyles within the planet's means. The report also clearly identified that the current patterns of economic growth could not be sustained without significant changes in attitudes and actions.

The World Commission used the term 'sustainable development' in its 1987 final report, Our Common Future, and defined it as:

development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

In Australia, the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development uses the term 'ecologically sustainable development', or ESD, which it defines as:

development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends.

These and the many other definitions of sustainable development recognise that we need to link development and protection of the environment in order to protect and manage ecosystems and natural resources which are essential for fulfilling basic human needs and improving living standards for all.


Key Principles of Sustainability



The effective integration of environmental, social and economic considerations in decision making. 


Community Involvement

Recognition that sustainability cannot be achieved, nor significant progress made toward it, without the support and involvement of the whole community.


Precautionary Behaviour

Where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.


Equity Within and Between Generations

Fairness and equal access to opportunities both in our lifetimes, as well as for future generations.


Continual Improvement

The declining environmental situation means there is an imperative to take immediate action to become more sustainable and to make continual improvement.


Ecological Integrity

To protect biological diversity and maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems.


Improved Valuation, Pricing and Incentive Mechanisms

That environmental factors should be included in the valuation of assets and services. to protect biological diversity and maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems.


"Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are going"
Chinese proverb