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Sustainability and Impact on Policy Discussion


Sustainability is a concept that has been the subject of research discussion globally, looking into its influence on policy formulation as the global society rapidly urbanizes. The term sustainability has been predominant dating back to 1970 from its inception as the United Nations linked economic, social, and environmental factors as integral parts of sustainability during the International Strategy for Development Conference (Chalfoun, 2020). Later on, United Nations established a framework and definition of a globally acceptable definition of sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” in the United Nations’ Brundtland Report of 1987 (McManus, 2014)The general conceptualization of sustainability and sustainable development in this way gained importance as an essential component for the preservation of the global environment and resources. The assumption of such prescriptions was generally guided by the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that are considered key indicators of achieving global sustainability (United Nations, 2021). As a result, sustainability goals are prescribed to solve the dynamic urban management and development challenges, such as global warming and climate change. The use of sustainability goals influenced policies upon which sustainable urban design and development are set.

Therefore, sustainability sets a precedent for sustainable development, influencing modern efforts of models such as sustainable urbanism as urbanization rapidly increases. However, research and academic review and monitoring of the implementation of the policies indicate that the ambitions of sustainability goals are yet to be achieved; Conversely, the results from literature and statistics reveal that the global ecological status is getting worse, undermining the sustainable development of the global society (Chalfoun, 2020). Subsequently, is policy formulation and discussion warranted to be focused on achieving sustainable development through sustainability goals? This forms the basis of the research in accordance with Benson and Craig’s (2014) criticism of the concept of sustainability and its impact on policy implementation. The criticism questions the level to which planning evolves with changing problems in society. Academics and practitioners are invested in establishing the root cause of the failures of policy implementation and overarching sustainability goals that are centered on preserving ecological systems. Additionally, the consensus in the research alludes to the integration of sustainability goals into sustainable urbanism, and development influences policy implementation limitations as the goals are considered impractical (Chalfoun, 2020).

Therefore, the research tests the validity of the argument that sustainability is at its end due to its inefficiency in meeting targets of sustainable urbanism by reviewing further literature on the issue of sustainability in the current modern society we live in. According to Benson and Craig (2014), the assumption is that the epoch of Anthropocene has been given little consideration in discussion and the weight of external factors that are necessary for sustainability are brought to light. The implications of the conceptualization are minimal on changing the human activities that lead to the undermining of sustainability. Conclusively, the lack of clearly defined conceptualization or set framework opens up a can of worms as the limitations cause misconceptions and failure of policy implementation. The research will find out what factors lead to the failure of policy implementation and why sustainability negatively influences the achievement of these goals.


Policy formulation globally has been influenced largely by the conceptualization of environmental sustainability. The term sustainability has been set as a basis of policy formulation for its expected outcome; to leave a living world for future generations (Chalfoun, 2020). The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ushered the global concern of sustainability and sustainable development in Rio. The Rio 20+ agreement strived to define sustainable development and set global targets to attain sustainability. The agenda of sustainable development called for international environmental negotiation through the declaration in Rio that identified the potential risks of climate change and environmental decline in coming years (Benson and Craig, 2015). Arguably, governments and organizations globally have supported the sustainability concept and have been dedicated to the purpose of sustainable development to protect the environment (Chalfoun, 2020). However, the application of the policies and efforts have been predominantly identified as a failed concept in meeting modern urban design and development challenges.

Rather than a partitioned model disputing the significance of form, policy, or efficiency, the upshot of this research is a recommended responsive model, which is distinct from this eclectic approach to urbanism. Three key sustainability elements are included in the proposed responsive urban design: health, location specificity, and social ethics (Stevens, Plowright and Adhya, 2010). Consequently, the research is necessitated to evaluate the efficacy of sustainability goals as they have influenced policymaking in sustainable development and urbanism. The research takes a keen interest in Benson and Craig’s (2014) argument that sustainability is an outdated concept that is irrelevant as a major basis for policy development. They argue on the fundamental approach in which sustainability is applied, identifying its failure in changing human behavior.

Additionally, research alludes to a bias in understanding and considering the occurrence of the Anthropocene, which holds that humans have taken control of the planet’s ecosystem and entered a new geological period defined by human rule (Chalfoun, 2020). We’ll take a look at the abundance of literature on the issue in this study, supplemented by an in-depth look at how and why it came to be, how long it has been around, and disagreements about its geological formalization and beginnings. Earth system sciences, ecological and geological sciences, and social sciences and humanities opinions and critiques are all examined to see how the notion functions as a cultural consciousness and ideological challenge today. Finally, I’d want to provide my opinion on the Anthropocene concept and its usefulness.

Literature Review

The literature review looks into documentation and analysis of concepts surrounding the subject of the study. Subsequently, we review the concept of sustainability and its goals contrasting to its impact and influence on policy implementation. Further, it is proposed in this paper that a framework for applying the notion of sustainable development to the city and regional planning be developed after reviewing current literature on the subject. As Giovannoni and Fabietti (2013) notes, academics and practitioners alike have long advocated for this necessity in order to achieve sustainable development. It starts by examining various interpretative approaches to the concept of sustainability in general, then moves on to explore some urban planning traditions that serve as a foundation for its application to city planning, and finally proposes steps toward the development of an urban spearheaded framework that incorporates the goal of sustainability.

Although the term “sustainability” has been infused since 1970, many people are unfamiliar with it because it has only been used in its current form since then. There are several questions raised by this. What does the term “sustainable urbanism.” imply in practice? Is it feasible to explain this notion in a specific way and results in agreement among those who understand it? It is a question of whether it can convey a coherent and meaningful worldview that points in a clear direction and has practical implications, rather than simply being a progressive wish list. What element of the worldwide process of urban and regional development, which is constructing the physical environments in which future generations will live, does the term “urbanization” have a particular resonance?

The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat) released its 2009 Global Report on Human Settlements, which focuses on urban planning. Due to a renewed focus on urbanism in the past ten to fifteen years, it is an ideal moment to examine the nature and function of city planning. The Global Report aimed to provide a new approach to urban planning that takes into account changing global trends, urban patterns, and urbanization’s increasing issues (UN Habitat, 2009). The recent ACSA symposium “Seeking the City” analyzes architectural prospects and possibilities for imagining increasing and bursting urban center and peripheral meanings. Post-industrial metropolises have changed in several ways, making this a particularly essential problem to consider (ACSA 2008). Urban resources and ecosystems are once again a hot topic of debate, necessitating the development of a critical urban design to put a stop to it.


Defining sustainability has proved to be a long-standing subject of contention in the practical and academic environment. A simple definition of sustainability may be described as the ability to retain an entity, outcome, or process across time (Mensah, 2019). In the eyes of professionals in development, the word means improving and maintaining an economically, ecologically and socially sound foundation for human advancement (Purvis, Mao and Robinson, 2018). According to this definition, sustainable development is described as the efficient and equal distribution of resources among the generations and the functioning of socioeconomic activities in a finite environment. Sustainability refers to a dynamic equilibrium between the population and its environment’s carrying capacity, in which the population expands to its maximum potential without causing irreversible damage to the environment on which it depends (Mensah, 2019). The diversity in the perception of sustainability is evident as different fields of practice adjust the meaning to suit their intended purpose revealing a new issue discounting the effectiveness of achieving sustainability goals.

Elsewhere, sustainability has been at the center of debate by academics and practitioners as the world braced for the emerging threat of climate change. Consequently, sustainability goals have been incorporated as the basis in policy dedication to achieving sustainable development (Chalfoun, 2020). The concept has been infused as part of sustainable development and has proven a hurdle in disconnecting the two terms. Benson and Craig (2014) argue that the two terms should function as two separate entities. As policy formulation dictates, sustainability is acknowledged as an essential principle that can support improving ecological systems. The misconception proposed by Benson and Craig (2014) is that policy anticipates influencing sustainable development in this way.

Nevertheless, researchers make critical reviews of the implementation of sustainability policies. In accordance, Chalfoun (2020) provides a criterion to which policies are more commonly evaluated based on the appropriateness, efficiency and effectiveness, potentially integrating social support as a key factor of success. The basis of the argument that sustainability is at its end is validated by assessing the state of sustainability. On this spectrum, tracking changes of environmental status reveal the extent of effectiveness. Data indicates that no nation has achieved environmental sustainability with a decline of environment quality over recent years despite patches of improvement in some local setups (Escobar, 2015). Moreover, there is a rise in greenhouse gas emissions, and the effects of global warming are becoming more severe, coupled with worsening air quality, especially in East and Southeast Asia (Chalfoun, 2020). Research and evidence as presented concur that sustainability is failing subject to various circumstances that are overlooked.

Sustainable Urbanism

The goal of sustainable urbanism is to build cities and states that will benefit both people and the global human and natural ecosystems in the long run. According to concepts proposed by Schaefer (2005), sustainable urbanism model is development that meets the needs of the current generation without affecting how the future generations meet their needs. The conceptualization shows a clear replication of sustainability definition as per the United Nations. The term “development” has been used in various ways by different academics, which has led to a wide range of interpretations and ideas. Similarly, sustainable development is described as a core concept within global development policy (Abubakar, 2017). This goal can be achieved by protecting and restoring natural ecosystems in urban areas, building community environments that promote human potential, sensibly utilizing land and resources, and facilitating human lifestyles that contribute to global sustainability.

For sustainable urbanism, consensus on the values that fan it, techniques for measuring progress toward or away from sustainable urbanism, and the necessary political organizing, leadership development, and public education must be done in the public interest for it to be a possibility. Urban design is an essential undertaking tied to sustainable urbanism, thought of as a design discourse and performed as a branch of architecture, urban planning, and civil engineering (Stevens, Plowright and Adhya, 2010). As such, urban designers are educated as architects, planners, or engineers under this popular paradigm, each with their own design bias. Similar literature describes urban design as a current theoretical and professional subject, defined as an ambiguous combination of professions as a consequence of the close connection between these related disciplines and the quest for an acceptable framework for this emerging discourse (Inam, 2002). It’s difficult to come up with a clear definition of urban design since it’s both ambiguous and nebulous. This also shows that sustainability and sustainable urbanization are poorly defined and understood (Neuman, 2005). The deficiencies further serve to support the complexity of achieving sustainable urbanism and development. The lack of clear-cut frameworks to define roles and elements of these fields of practice creates a new challenge that delays the efficiency of policy implementation. The underlying challenge is neglected as the overall assumption is urban design is an important component towards sustainable development.


The effects of the Anthropocene are an important element to be discussed alongside sustainability and sustainable development. The term has been described as a geological phenomenon in a particular era that is influenced mainly by human behavior in economic, social, and political spheres. The occurrence of the Anthropocene is characterized by the threats of climate change and environmental decay (land oceans and the earth’s biosphere) as an effect of human imprint (Zalasiewicz et al., 2011). Research argues that the new geological epoch has been subject to rapid anthropogenic changes; human behavior. A most elusive challenge influenced by human beings is identified to be managing carbon footprint and the recurring challenge of greenhouse gas emissions (Bonneuil, Fressoz and Fernbach, 2017). As humans makes strides in industrialization and technological advancements in the global civilization, the rate of harm to the world increases. Regardless, the anthropogenic influence of human behavior is incessant as new technology is developed, disrupting the achievement of sustainability goals and policy implementation. As a result of these anthropogenic changes and threats to sustainability, emphasis on the sustainability goals has been rampantly encouraged as global societies integrate them in policy formulation to mitigate the environmental harm.

Position statement

As highlighted in the literature review, the documentation on sustainability and its interpretation is cause for debate in its controversial impact. Evidently, research reveals that in an attempt to achieve sustainability, policies have been geared towards influencing development practice to influence sustainability (Chalfoun, 2020). Minimal caution is taken on the Anthropocene factor affecting the implementation of policies. As Benson and Craig (2015) indicate, a utopian ideal set has overrun the global society on the basis of sustainability without establishing proper strategies to mitigate the challenge. The concept is supported by further research indicating how human activity in their natural habitats is the main challenge as the world experiences rapid urbanization.

The perception of sustainability is an acceptable concept in ensuring continuity of development in a manner that protects future generations and meets the needs of the current societies. The sustainability goals are important to provide a constant reminder of the problem being faced and may not be disregarded altogether. However, based on the literature review, it is evident that the misconceptions of the term and concept have negatively influenced development as the global challenges are still existing, if not getting worse as time elapses (Chalfoun, 2020). As a result, this shows the deficiencies of the policy system in the global framework, both at national, regional and even local levels. The circumstances are the root cause for Benson and Craig’s (2015) proposal to replace the sustainability concept with a more reliable model of resilience.

On the other hand, due to the lack of clearly defined frameworks, practitioners are muddling through to employ alternatives to the existing challenge. The alternatives to the traditional patterns of physical, social, and economic growth in both industrialized and developing countries have been referred to as “sustainable urbanism” (Benaim, Collins and Raftis, 2008). These alternatives can prevent problems like pollution through good management; that is, the most effective strategy for eliminating trash and reducing pollution is to avoid the generation of garbage in the first place. Source reduction is the process of preventing waste from being generated in the first place and, as a result, reducing the environmental impact. A number of criteria have been identified, including items and stuff that are less harmful or can be easily recycled. By incorporating long-term design and engineering methods into processes, products, and systems, we can reduce the amount of nonrenewable raw resources necessary. Moreover, we can design and engineer systems for long life and include recycling and reuse options into processes, products, and procedures.


Conclusively, the inception and infusion of sustainability have been of positive intent as the global community fell into an era challenged with the growing degradation of ecologic systems and challenges of climate change. The research establishes that the challenges and factors causing these changes are dynamic, meaning that they are ever-changing. Just as the researchers indicate a deficiency in policy capacity in adjusting to the challenges exhibited by the epoch of the Anthropocene, current practice is not flexible to mitigate the challenges of change. Therefore, the research encourages a shift in the modern practice of policy formulation on urbanism and development to multidisciplinary and multidimensional such that it incorporates the changing nature of planning problems. This requires constant monitoring and adjustment of policy and goals to be achieved. Rather than do away with it, find a solution that mitigates its deficiencies and relevancy to ensure the base intention is maintained but through a different approach. Hence, researchers need to advocate for policy adjustments and shift from sustainability to consider what is healthy for society. The research supports the concept of considering the Anthropocene challenges and how development and policy can be readjusted to create resilience against the new changes and paradigm shifts in challenges of different generations. Future planning and development in this way can achieve sustainability through dynamic policy goals that transcend global challenges and actively influence change.

Reference List

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