Sustainability development is a guiding principle for addressing development goals in the ecological, economic, social and cultural arenas. It refers to the use of knowledge and innovation to harness the benefits provided by the natural systems and environmental processes and to minimize the negative environmental, economic, and social impacts. The term is also used to refer to the set of practices and strategies that are needed to create a just environment for human society, the world’s ecosystems, and nature in general. This principle is incorporated in numerous intergovernmental organization (IGO) and international working groups dedicated to achieving sustainable development.
The IGI uses the term sustainable to describe the practices that it promotes as a guide to effective decision making. It also advocates the adoption of strategies that build on the principles of sustainable development and the use of eco-friendly, environmental productive capacity. These include efficient use of non-green energy, recycling, and protection of the environment. The IGI believes that these practices and strategies should be adopted at all levels of society, from individuals to national, regional, and global levels. The organization further calls for the diversification of the existing stock of environmental technologies, knowledge and skills, and social and economic structures to build a just, sustainable and ecologically sound society and economy.
The IGI believes that the key to sustainable community development process is improving the management of natural systems. They propose to create a «sustainable village» model with inclusive participation of local people, government, and society to improve the ecological conditions, economic conditions, social services, and quality of life. The IGI proposes five sustainable practices for the IGI program. These include energy and climate change adaptation; food and nutrition; natural and building resources; water and waste management; and transportation and mobility. The IGI also advocates a system for technology transfer and innovation, promoting the practice of integrated development at both the local and national level.
The sustainability practices of the IGI include the following areas: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, use of renewable and non-traditional sources of energy and materials, improved energy efficiency, and increased use of solid waste. The sustainable development of the economy requires a coordinated effort at all levels, from individual actions at the household level to systemic changes at the community, national, regional, and global levels. In this regard, the IGI supports localized solutions to environmental and other resource problems through improved public services, better use of recycled resources, and an increased focus on a healthy and sustainable food and product market. The IGI also advocates improved financial management, including creation of a sustainable development fund and effective enforcement of environmental laws.
The IGI’s sustainable development practices and models for the community development process are included in the IGI’s Alternative Future Needs Assessment (AFADA). The full assessment is a multidisciplinary effort involving an international team of experts, including people from various sectors such as: development practitioners, researchers, statisticians, engineers, and urban planners. The purpose of the assessment is to develop a shared understanding of the current and future needs of the global community, in light of both long-term and short-term environmental issues. The IGI began conducting its own sustainability investigations in 2000 and has developed a set of sustainability targets, policies, and benchmarks.
As part of the sustainability planning process, the IGI divides the community into four key categories. The first, the Local Sustainable Environment Strategies (LSES), is focused on the broadest possible range of sustainable activities. This involves everything from recycling and public transportation to rethinking land use and planning for natural, living systems, to implementing innovations in the science of sustainability. The Local Strategies also consider the wider regional perspectives represented by the metropolitan, regional, national, and global LSEs. These strategies focus on a list of specific and quantifiable goals and objectives. The final category, the Global Sustainable Environment Strategies (G SEs), identifies the more remote environmental concerns and policies of a country or region.
Another aspect of the development focuses on the use of energy sources in the planning, implementation, and regulation of public services. In the United States, this includes the development of new and advanced technology for producing energy, as well as a variety of methods for using existing power sources more efficiently. For instance, the use of biomass as a source of renewable energy has been a principal objective of the development since the mid-nineties. Biofuels offer a clean and carbon-efficient alternative to fossil fuels, making them a key part of the efforts to strengthen the nation’s energy security.
The IGI’s sustainable development work program also considers the interaction of people and the environment. This effort recognizes that environmental quality can affect the quality and human needs of all individuals and communities, affecting their quality of life and the sustainability of the ecosystems in which they live. The development of sustainable neighborhoods and communities offers a unique opportunity for addressing these issues, with a focus on the reduction of negative environmental impact, as well as on the improvement of the economic, social, and cultural conditions of local residents. In doing so, it can play a vital role in addressing some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. These efforts build on IGI’s long track record of community development and social engagement and have been proven through numerous studies, from the Worldwatch Institute to the Stockholm Environment Institute, as an important means of reducing poverty, improving community well-being, and reducing environmental impact.