What is Sustainability?

UMass Amherst chapel and library

Leading By Example

Over the last thirty years in towns, businesses, and governmental organizations around the globe, communities have begun to redefine what health, wealth, and success looks like.

As national leaders of the green campus movement UMASS Amherst encourages our students, faculty and staff to continually ask how each choice we make can create a better future for the people in our community, the planet we call our home, and the long term financial health & stability of the educational institution where we live and work every day.

To learn how sustainability became such a vital part of what we do here at UMass Amherst, see below:

Sustainability & the Triple Bottom Line

A Brief History

  • In 1987, as mounting concerns over the dwindling long term health of the environment grew, the UN World Commission on Environment and Development (known as the Brundtland Commission) established the following definition of sustainable development (a definition now widely adopted around the globe):  "Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
  • Expanding on this concept in 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) adopted the Three-Dimension Concept, recognizing that sustainable development was a balance of three dimensions: Environmental Protection, Economic Growth, and Social Development
  • In the years that followed organizations seeking to incorporate sustainability into their planning processes began to build upon the Three-Dimension Concept.  In the mid-90's businessman John Elkington coined a term that quickly went into wide-spread use among sustainably-minded organizations: The Triple Bottom Line (an awareness of and accountability for impacts on people, planet, and profit), sometimes also refered to as The Three E's (Equity, Environment, and Economics)
  • As part of this growing awareness at the start of the new millinium, schools and universities around the nation began to search for impactful ways they can get involved in the sustainability movement

Sustainable UMass