These three scientific articles give an understanding and perspective to the concepts sustainable development and sustainability in each their own way and from different decades. If you want to look into only one of them, choose the third one. (Each article 45 min read, 10 min overview).
“The three-pillar conception of (social, economic and environmental) sustainability, commonly represented by three intersecting circles with overall sustainability at the centre, has become ubiquitous. With a view of identifying the genesis and theoretical foundations of this conception, this paper reviews and discusses relevant historical sustainability literature. From this we find that there is no single point of origin of this three-pillar conception, but rather a gradual emergence from various critiques in the early academic literature of the economic status quo from both social and ecological perspectives on the one hand, and the quest to reconcile economic growth as a solution to social and ecological problems on the part of the United Nations on the other.” (Abstract from Purvis 2019)
1. Desta Mebratu (1998): Sustainability and sustainable development: Historical and conceptual review. Environmental Impact Assessment Review Volume 18 Issue 6, pages 493 – 520.
2. Lumley, S., Armstrong, P. (2004) Some of the Nineteenth Century Origins of the Sustainability Concept. Environment, Development and Sustainability 6, 367–378 (2004).
3. Purvis, B., Mao, Y. & Robinson, D. Three pillars of sustainability: in search of conceptual origins. Sustain Sci 14, 681–695 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-018-0627-5The