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Guiding principles for sustainable development

The Coalition Government’s refreshed vision and commitments for sustainable development build on the principles that underpinned the UK’s 2005 sustainable development strategy, by recognising the needs of the economy, society and the natural environment, alongside the use of good governance and sound science.

The goal of living within environmental limits and a just society will be achieved by means of a sustainable economy, good governance, and sound science.

Diagram showing the guiding principles - see below for explanations of the principles in text

This set of shared principles forms the basis for sustainable development in the UK and devolved administrations. Sustainable policy must respect all five of these principles, though some policies, while underpinned by all five, will place more emphasis on certain principles than others.

Any trade-offs should be explicit and transparent. We want to achieve our goals of living within environmental limits and a just society, and we will do it by means of a sustainable economy, good governance, and sound science.

The five shared principles

  • Living Within Environmental Limits
    Respecting the limits of the planet’s environment, resources and biodiversity – to improve our environment and ensure that the natural resources needed for life are unimpaired and remain so for future generations.
  • Ensuring a Strong, Healthy and Just Society
    Meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity for all.
  • Achieving a Sustainable Economy
    Building a strong, stable and sustainable economy which provides prosperity and opportunities for all, and in which environmental and social costs fall on those who impose them (polluter pays), and efficient resource use is incentivised.
  • Using Sound Science Responsibly
    Ensuring policy is developed and implemented on the basis of strong scientific evidence, whilst taking into account scientific uncertainty (through the precautionary principle) as well as public attitudes and values.
  • Promoting Good Governance
    Actively promoting effective, participative systems of governance in all levels of society – engaging people’s creativity, energy, and diversity.

Page last modified: 30 March, 2011

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