Connecting, Nurturing, Creating for Sustainable Environment

General Sustainable Development

What is Sustainable Development?

The commonly-accepted and often-cited definition of Sustainable Development is that given in Our Common Future, the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (also called the Bruntland Report, after the commission chairman, Mrs G. H Bruntland):

“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

While this definition is quite general, the Sustainable Development movement is specifically recognized as promoting simultaneous economic and social development and environmental stewardship. The philosophy of Sustainable Development is that none of these should be sacrificed for the other. Social, economic and environmental values represent the ‘triple bottom line’ businesses are urged to manage. The Sustainable Development movement also consistently recognizes that government, business, and society each have a vital role to play in making progress.

Origin of the Sustainable Development Movement

One of the milestones of the environmentalist movement was the Club of Rome’s publication of its 1972 report, Limits to Growth, predicting a crisis food shortage and direct environmental and other consequences if growth were not slowed. In 1974, the Bariloche Foundation published Limits to Poverty, calling for growth and equity for the Third World. The Sustainable Development movement represents a reconciliation of environmental concerns of the North, with the economic and social concerns of the South.

Sustainable development in HK

The 1st and 2nd Engagement Process of the Council for Sustainable Development

In July 2004, the Council for Sustainable Development has published the first “Invitation and Response” document: Sustainable Development – Making Choices for Our Future and implemented the first engagement process, through which community were invited to discuss and comment on issues related to sustainable development in three pilot areas: Solid Waste Management, Renewable Energy and Urban Living Space. In the first engagement process, the Council hosted numbers of public forums, regional public workshops, and other programmes to engage the community in a discussion on these three pilot areas, and over 1,900 responses were received at the end of the public engagement period in November 2004. In May 2005, the Government has issued the First Sustainable Development Strategy for Hong Kong to conclude the first engagement process. Please click here for more information about the first engagement process.

On 29 June 2006, the Council for Sustainable Development launched its second “Invitation and Response” document entitled Enhancing Population Potential for a Sustainable Future and started the second engagement process to engage the community in a dialogue exploring the options for a sustainable population policy. In the second IR document, the Council has made some initial attempts to discuss the challenges in Hong Kong’s future population structure and its potential in building a vibrant economy and healthy society. It also invites all members of the community to consider the sustainability implications of a population policy for Hong Kong from the economic, social and environmental perspectives. The public engagement period will be ended in October 2006. Between this four-month engagement period, the Council for Sustainable Development and other partner organizations will organize a number of district-based or sector-specific workshops and forums to collect views from the general public on sustainable population policy. For more information, please visit

Launch of Sustainable Development Fund

Announced by Council for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Fund was established with a sum of HK$100 million in September 2003 to provide a main source of financial support for initiatives that will help to develop a strong public awareness of the concept of sustainable development and to encourage sustainable practices in Hong Kong.

Initially, a maximum of HK$10 million annually will be available for disbursement from the Fund. There will be two calls for applications to the Fund each year. For more information please visit the Sustainable Development Unit website.

Official Launch of Council for Sustainable Development in March 2003

The Chief Executive of HKSAR announced in March 2003 the appointments of Council for Sustainable Development for a period of 2 years. The Council consists of stakeholders from the key sectors of business, social service and environmental conservation, and is chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration.

The Council will play a pivotal role in formulating strategy, fostering community support and promoting public awareness of sustainable development in Hong Kong. It will set up a Strategy Sub-committee to coordinate work on a public participating programme for putting together a strategy; an Education and Publicity Sub-committee to look at ways of promoting public awareness of sustainable development. For the launch of SDC, Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) was established in Apr 2001 and has developed a sustainability assessment system in Dec 2001. All government bureaux and departments must conduct sustainability assessments of all new strategic initiatives or programmes and include assessment findings in high-level submissions in the decision making process, in addition to requirement of Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance as promulgated in 1999.

For more information please visit the Sustainable Development Unit website.

HKSAR Study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century (SUSDEV 21)

HKSAR Planning Department commissioned the three-year study in Sept 1997 which aimed at developing a tool to assist decision makers incorporate sustainability into Hong Kong’s future development. Key outputs from the study included a definition of sustainable development in local context:

“Sustainable Development in Hong Kong balances social, economic and environmental needs, both for present and future generations, simultaneously achieving a vibrant economy, social progress and better environmental quality, locally, nationally and internationally, through the efforts of the community and the Government.”

The study included a series of sustainability indicators and guiding principles for making the definition more readily understood; a Computer-Aided Sustainability Evaluation Tool (CASET), which is decision support system, to assist in evaluating the sustainability implications of strategic policy and project proposals; recommendation for institutional changes with HKSAR Government.

The full SUSDEV21 Report is available from the Planning Department website.

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