A New Look at Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is a proposition that arose in the late 1980s to respond to the need to balance the objectives of economic growth and poverty reduction with natural limits. More than 20 years later, some say the sustainable development paradigm is no longer useful because it promotes adjustment in existing systems rather than challenging the very viability of those systems. Avina stands by sustainable development as the pillar of its mission, though it recognizes that the concept of sustainability represents a deeper challenge than initially anticipated. Simply put, no viable alternative has emerged that offers a better framework for decision-making and prioritizing actions.

Originally serving as an ethical orientation and a somewhat abstract lens to view specific challenges, sustainable development now must evolve into an integrated framework that provides practical reference for formulating public policy, regulating markets and overcoming structural deficiencies. There is evidence that this has already begun to occur.

While facing difficulties at the global level, climate change agendas are gaining ground in influencing municipal and national policies. In some countries where government actions or regulations have been absent, judicial authorities have begun to demand government take responsibility in matters linked to social and environmental sustainability. In a growing number of cities or provinces, goals and mechanisms have been established to reduce emissions, favor clean energy and offer incentives for responsible consumption.

This trend of incorporating sustainable development into decision-making is also seen in the market, where the concept of corporate responsibility has evolved into a growing commitment to sustainability, as shown in new mandates and management structures in companies. Businesses that think long term realize that, in order to survive, they have to begin to take in account issues such as climate change and integrate social and environmental value into market signals.

Sustainable development inevitably depends in large part on the ability of civil society, the business world and governments to engage in dialogue, collaborate and implement action plans together. Although win-win solutions are the goal, the short-term reality is that powerful private interests exist in each sector that oppose change. Ways must be found to expose these private interests and negotiate democratically necessary changes that will benefit society as a whole and future generations.

Avina believes it can contribute to sustainable development by:




Primary sources: Research, interviews, and essays produced by Fundación Avina.

Secondary sources cited: