top of page

[vision] The concept of sustainability you need to know! wedding cake ;-)

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

Hi This is Takeshi, CEO of and I write about the fundamental concept of sustainability today!!

Initially, the concept of sustainability was a balance between the environment, society and the economy. Is it right?

At the UN conference on sustainability (so called the Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Environment and Development was agreed, and the Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity were initiated. Around that time, the concept of sustainability looks like this diagram of three overlapping rings, which most of you may be familiar with (right side of figure above). The environmental, social and economic wheels overlap, and sustainability is the centre of balance, right? Is it really so?

Let's divide the economy, society and the environment into three equal parts and achieve sustainability by balancing. Five years later, if we divide the environment, which is now one-third of the total, into three equal parts of society, environment and economy again, we have only one-ninth of the total environment. This sequence of balancing is how the destruction of the environment - deforestation, loss of topsoil, etc. - has proceeded, with new people talking about a new balance.

Ten years after the Rio Declaration, the concept of sustainability championed by academics at the Stockholm Resilience Centre -- also known as the SDGs' wedding cake (left side of figure above). Society exists above or within the environment, and the economy exists within society. In this case or cake, the economy is the engine that drives society, and there can be no economy that is greater than society. Similarly, no society is greater than its environment. A society cannot exist in an environment that has been rendered uninhabitable by desertification. Likewise, economic activity cannot develop properly in areas where there is a constant conflict or where the only people living are the poor.

Therefore, we can say that the outermost circle is the limit of the caring capacity, and the inside is the biosphere. Originally SDGs was thought to be based on the idea that low number goals such as poverty (SDG1) and hunger (SDG2) would be the basis for high number goals such as climate change (SDG13) and life on land (SDG15). Based on the concept of this SDGs wedding cake, some of the foundations are reversed. The environmental field is generally considered to be high number SDGs for advanced countries, but according to the concept of the wedding cake, the environmental SDGs can be the basis for achieving the other SDGs. So we need to be proactive in achieving them, even in developing countries. The initial concept of sustainability, which was conceived almost 30 years ago, is still perceived by the majority as trying to achieve a balance, but we need to change this first.

With the wedding cake concept, Outside-in concept is explained here:

260 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page