The concept of Sustainable Development has been around for decades and is the simple idea of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and in the future. A widely-used international definition is “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Although the idea is simple, the task is substantial and it means the world meeting four objectives at the same time:

Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone

Everyone needs to share in the benefits of increased prosperity and a clean and safe environment. We have to improve access to services, tackle social exclusion, and reduce the harm to health caused by poverty, poor housing, unemployment and pollution. Our needs must not be met by treating others, including future generations and people elsewhere in the world, unfairly.

Effective protection of the environment

We must act to limit global environmental threats, such as climate change; to protect human health and safety from hazards such as poor air quality and toxic chemicals; and to protect things which people need or value, such as wildlife, landscapes and historic buildings.

Prudent use of natural resources

We need to make sure that we use non-renewable resources such as oil and gas efficiently and that alternatives are developed to replace. Renewable resources, such as water, should be used in ways that do not endanger the resource or cause serious damage or pollution.

Maintenance of stable and sustainable levels of economic growth and employment

Everyone needs to be able to share decent living standards and job opportunities. The UK is a trading nation in a rapidly changing world. For our country to prosper, our businesses must produce the high quality goods and services that consumers throughout the world want, at prices they are prepared to pay. To achieve that, we need a workforce that is equipped with the education and skills for the 21st century. And we need businesses ready to invest, and an infrastructure to support them.