Landmarks for Sustainability: Events and Initiatives That Have Changed Our World

Wayne Visser, author of Landmarks for Sustainability

The world has been working on sustainable development since at least 1987, when the UN World Commission on Environment and Development published its report, Our Common Future. Since then, however, many of the global challenges (climate change, biodiversity, drinking water availability, urbanisation, to list only a few) are getting worse, rather than better. To support educated thinking on sustainable development, knowledge of its history, facts and figures is helpful.

This book supports this kind of understanding. In 20 chapters, it reviews five main areas of sustainable development. It starts with environment, health and safety with data on climate change, the state of the planet and crisis events. Section two is on ‘Society and Economy’ and addresses issues of globalisation, poverty and human rights. Following the challenges are the global responses. Section three is on (international) leadership, business associations and social enterprises. A section follows this on industrial, financial and consumer collaboration. This book is concluded with four chapters on management for sustainable development. They deal with international standards, corporate governance and (industrial) stakeholders.

The book is remarkable, as the chapters are not written in a traditional way. Rather, each chapter is a collection of facts, figures, historical records, quotations, photographs and cases. The documentary aspect is the strength of this book. Apart from this, it illustrates a number of trends on how the world has dealt with sustainable development during the last 20 years. During this period a number of issues, such as the climate change discussion, moved from marginality to mainstream. Business and government changed from being largely reactive to more proactive attitudes. The book also illustrates a growing consensus on principles and standards.

The landmarks of the sustainable development approach provide the book with its original character. On the other hand, a most selective picture of sustainable development is presented. There is a focus on business, industry and governance, but much less on the contributions by environmental and sustainable development NGOs. It is equally inevitable that such an approach cannot be complete. However, the fact that the ‘landmarks timeline’ at the end of the book does not mention the 1987 Brundtland report is symptomatic for the selective character of the approach.

One is aware of these limitations; however, this landmarks book is useful documentation for business managers, decision makers, consultants and all those among us who lecture about sustainable development.

A review by Luc Hens

Read the original in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution

Wayne Visser is the Founder and CEO of the thinktank CSR International and author/editor of such books as The Top 50 Sustainability Books and The World Guide to CSR. Find a link to his blog here.

Buy Landmarks for Sustainability direct from Greenleaf Publishing and receive a 40% discount. Use voucher code dmk45 at checkout.

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