This Policy Position Statement discusses a range of issues
concerned with the practicalities of delivering Sustainable
CIWEM calls for:
- The UK Government to clearly demonstrate that it is delivering
against its 2005 sustainable development strategy (which CIWEM
welcomes and endorses), with all Government departments placing
sustainable development at the heart of their operations.
- The wider incorporation of environmental costs into the prices
of all commodities in order to send a clear price signal to
consumers regarding the wider impacts of items they buy.
- Efforts to simplify and aid the application of the wide range
of sustainability assessment methodologies currently employed by
environmental and other professionals.
- The UK Government to work with other governments to find ways
to allow poorer countries to more efficiently undergo or where
possible skip phases of development which historically have
involved significant levels of environmental damage.
- Continue to develop an environmental management system in
accordance with the ISO14001 standard to measure the Institution's
own environmental performance and set targets for continual
- Actively encourage its members to practice good environmental
principles both professionally and personally.
- Lobby Government and other bodies to improve their sustainable
development performance in line with strategies and frameworks such
as Securing the Future, One Planet Living and the Five Capitals
- Work to develop a routemap which summarises and provides
guidance on optimum use of the wide range of sustainability
methodology currently in existence.
- Work towards a carbon neutral operation in its internal and
The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management
(CIWEM) is the leading professional body for the people who plan,
protect and care for the environment and its resources, providing
educational opportunities, independent information to the public
and advice to government. Members in 96 countries include
scientists, engineers, ecologists and students.
The most widely accepted formulation of the concept of
sustainable development is that of the Brundtland
Commissioni which states that: "Sustainable
development is development that meets the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their own needs."
The 2005 UK Government Sustainable Strategy, Securing
the Futureii , further defines that "the goal of
sustainable development is to enable all people throughout the
world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of
life, without compromising the quality of life of future
generations". In the UK "that goal will be pursued in an
integrated way through a sustainable, innovative and productive
economy that delivers high levels of employment; and a just society
that promotes social inclusion, sustainable communities and
personal wellbeing. This will be done in ways that protect the
physical and natural environment, and use resources and energy as
efficiently as possible".
There are many other definitions of sustainable development,
however the majority contain common elements. These are the
advancement of social, environmental and economic goals in a manner
which provides for human needs now but without compromising the
ability of future generations to do the same.
Planetary resources are being consumed at a rate that is the
highest in human history. As the world population continues to grow
we can no longer ignore the increasing stress we are placing on our
planet's natural resources and environmental systems, such as
water, land and air. The impairment of these systems means that we
can no longer rely on their life support and pollution removal
services unless the environmental impacts of our actions are
dramatically reduced. We are faced with a changing climate,
depleted resources, widespread pollution and loss of habitats and
biodiversity. It is imperative that our society recognises and
learns to live within the limits of the planet's ecosystems and
there is a need to engage the whole of our society more vigorously
in facing up to this challenge and in making the significant
changes required. CIWEM's PPS on 'Living Within Environmental
Limits' discusses this in greater detail.
Sir Jonathan Porritt, Chairman of the UK's Sustainable
Development Commission, asks: "can we reach that point in our
evolutionary history where we start to live sustainably on this
Planet before we inflict irreversible damage on the life-support
systems that sustain us? Or will we remain hell-bent on testing
those systems to destruction (and beyond)?"iii
Achieving sustainable development is a monumental challenge
which requires action, and therefore cooperation on many levels,
including individually and globally. It requires that we live
today in a manner which does not jeopardise future generations
ability to do the same. This is a long way from where mankind
sits at present, and much evidence suggests that there is very
little time to make these changes and meet these challenges.
In delivering sustainable development, the UK needs to lead by
example. CIWEM concurs with a general consensus that
sustainable development will require, broadly, actions
- The promotion of innovation to support more sustainable
- Encouraging consumers and organisations to avoid purchasing
high material- and energy-intensive goods and services.
- Environmental damage costs to be internalised using financial
instruments. This requires the introduction of widespread economic
measures, such as taxes, to provide a financial incentive to reduce
pollution, the use of energy and other natural resources.
Consideration on environmental costs (and benefits) should also be
encouraged at all levels of policy and project appraisal.
- An accelerated and determined global programme of greenhouse
gas emission reductions, with targets set to avoid significant
- The promotion of sustainable modes of transport and reduction
of the need to travel by private car or airplane.
- An increase in energy efficiency with the establishment and
regular review of challenging standards to reduce energy
- A significant increase in the use of renewable energy instead
of fossil fuels.
- The minimisation of waste production, promotion by Government
of re-use and recycling and increasingly stringent requirements for
producer responsibility in dealing with waste materials.
- The protection of natural resources and the promotion of
environmental enhancement and biodiversity.
- The creation of sustainable communities at a local level
enabling people to work closer to their homes to reduce transport
costs and associated environmental impacts.
- Widespread environmental education including increasing the
emphasis on sustainability issues within the primary and secondary
school curricula and particularly within management programmes at
tertiary level and with employees.
- An open discussion on the issues surrounding population growth
and the impacts of this on achieving sustainable development.
Much of the activities required to deliver sustainable
development are set out in the United Nations' Agenda 21
programmeiv. This is a detailed, 40-chapter plan of
action, targeted at all groups whose activities impact on the
environment. The underlying principle is that action on
sustainable development must take place at all levels of society
from the individual level to the international level.
Agenda 21, along with the Rio Declaration on Environment and
Developmentv (which set out 27 principles relating to
sustainable development) and the Statement of Principles for the
Sustainable Management of Forests were adopted by more than 178
Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992.
The UN established the Commission on Sustainable Development later
that year to further the agreements of the conference and monitor
progress against them.
In the UK, the Government formed the Sustainable Development
Commission (SDC) to act as an independent champion for action,
which would also monitor and report on the performance of
government and other appropriate parties in delivering sustainable
The SDC's 'Progress 2004' sets out 20 challenges to government
to meet sustainable development, including:
- All government departments to embed Sustainable Development
at the centre of their goals, objectives and practices, giving a
clear and consistent lead to other members of society;
- SD embedded in cross-departmental processes;
- Government to make clear to business the need for
sustainable methods of operation;
- Government to build public awareness of major environmental
problems and introduce taxes or other financial instruments to
encourage a change in behaviour;
- Ensure that sustainability plays a central role in managing
all areas of the economy;
- Set demanding targets and timetables for moving to
sustainable products and production processes; and
- Encourage more sustainable food consumption.
'Securing the Future', produced in 2005, sets out in
detail many measures through which Government intends to deliver
sustainable development. Many address the recommendations by
the SDC and the document contains clear recognition of the
problems, the extent of the challenge and the responsibility
Government has to deliver and inspire solutions.
BioRegional and WWFvi have developed the One Planet
Living initiative which sets out 10 principles of sustainable
development, and aims to promote the concept of one planet living
through promotion, education and best practice demonstration of its
principles in communities:
- Zero Carbon
- Zero Waste
- Sustainable Transport
- Local and Sustainable Materials
- Local and Sustainable Food
- Sustainable Water
- Natural Habitats and Wildlife
- Culture & Heritage
- Equity & Fair Trade
- Health & Happiness
Forum for the Future has devised a model which sets out the five
'Capitals' which are required for a healthy society (natural,
human, social, manufactured and financial), and around them set out
twelve key features of a sustainable societyvii.
Initiatives such as these go a long way to aiding the
understanding of what is required in a sustainable society.
However, the delivery of these requirements within a modern
(democratic) political system is difficult as many of the actions
required involve constraints on modern 'western' lifestyles and
consumption behaviour. These constraints are unlikely to be popular
with voters and thus must be approached carefully and sensitively
by Government. This challenge is exacerbated by, as evidence
suggests, the lack of time available to make the required
modifications to our lifestyles before irreversible damage is done
to the earth life support systems and before the central aim of
sustainable development (of ensuring future generations are able to
meet their needs) becomes an impossibility.
There is an increasing appreciation amongst the environment
profession and other areas of business and government as to what
sustainable development is and requires in terms of action.
However, delivery of sustainability in practice is proving complex
and there is a plethora of methodologies utilised by environmental
professionals and others for assessment and delivery of
sustainability criteria within all manner of projects, This
is a potentially confusing state of affairs and it is important for
the delivery of sustainable development that its definitions and
components are clear and simple to understand by the widest
audience, as a fundamental rule of the principle of sustainable
development is that it will only be achieved through the actions of
all members of society.
Note: CIWEM Policy Position Statements (PPS) represent the
Institution's views on issues at a particular point in time. It is
accepted that situations change as research provides new evidence.
It should be understood, therefore, that CIWEM PPS's are under
constant review, and that previously-held views may alter and lead
to revised PPS's.
i Our Common Future, Report of the World
Commission on Environment and Development, World Commission on
Environment and Development, 1987http://www.un-documents.net/ocf-02.htm#I
ii Securing the Future - UK Government sustainable
development strategy. March 2005
iii Progress: Sustainable Development Commission
v Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment
and Development Annex 1: Rio Devlaration on Environment and
Development. United Nations, 1992