What is sustainability

What is sustainability

Sustainability is more than a current buzzword: it is a concept, a goal, and a strategy.  The concept addresses the need for balance between society, environment and economy, both now and into the future.  The goal is to achieve an ecologically and socially just world within the means of nature.  The process or strategy involves understanding how we move towards this sustainable future.

Sustainability aims for a balance between:


Inclusion is a state of being valued, respected and supported.  It is about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential.  Inclusion should be reflected in an organisation's culture, practices and relationships that are in place to support a diverse workforce (definition of 'Inclusion' provided by Macquarie University's Equity and Diversity Unit).

Social justice and well-being

Social justice and well-being includes meeting basic human needs and concern for the rights, dignity, and welfare of all people.  It includes respect for the traditions and religions of other societies and cultures, and it fosters empathy for the life conditions of other peoples.  Ecological sustainability and resource conservation are considered part of social justice (UNESCO ESD Toolkit).

Environmental protection 

Environmental protection is the practice of protecting the natural environment for the benefit of humans and the natural environment itself.  To this end and to the best of our abilities, we will negate the impact of our activities upon our environment to maintain or enhance the integrity, quality and quantity of existing biodiversity.  This includes ensuring we equip our students with the knowledge and skills to actively contribute to environmental protection, as well as the efficient use of resources.

Economic well-being

Economic well-being "is a crucial element of human well-being because most aspects of well-being in modern human society have to be purchased, including food, water, shelter, health care and many forms of recreation " (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2002).  This includes two primary considerations: well-being of the University and well-being of the individual.  As such, we seek to maintain and/or improve the economic position to the benefit of staff, students and the community, though not at the expense of other principles or individual economic well-being.


Diversity most commonly refers to differences between individuals or groups of people in age, cultural background, disability, ethnicity, family responsibilities, gender, language, marital status, religious belief, and sexual orientation; diversity may also include other ways in which people are different, such as education, life experience, work experience and socio-economic background.  Acknowledging diversity enables differences to be recognised and valued in the educational setting and in the workplace. (Definition of 'Diversity' provided by Macquarie University's Equity and Diversity Unit)

The University recognises that:

  • Sustainability is a journey and an endpoint
  • Sustainability requires challenges to people's thinking and practices on a continual basis
  • Education plays a key role in change towards sustainability
  • Issues associated with internationalisation are all intertwined and linked to sustainability
  • The active engagement and participation of students and staff is encouraged and considered integral to the successful implementation of initiatives for change.
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