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Definition of Sustainability

The United Nations defined sustainability in 1987 as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Today the United Nations has expanded its definition of sustainability to a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the first Forum for Sustainability at Sul Ross State University held on April 17, 2019 in Alpine, SRSU Sustainability Council Chair Dr. Bibi Gutierrez presented the United Nations’ definition of sustainability, the UN SDGs, as well as the common “triple bottom line” definition of sustainability: people, planet, and profit.

A Basic University Sustainability Progam

According to REFOCUS, university sustainability programs are tasked with improving social- and environmentally-focused programs while also enjoying financial savings that come with more holistic and conscious planning efforts.

Setting up a sustainability program means: developing the program’s foundation which demands a significant upfront effort. Capacities are assessed and improved over time and require leadership capacity, change management capacity, and measurement (assessment) capacity. Every year, the management of the program requires a focus on specific projects, a process for decision-making about how to use limited resources to make the biggest impact (think low effort, high impact), to report on those impacts, and then repeat and refine the process for subsequent years.