Sustainable Cities™

1987 | Brundtland Report: Our common future

Our Common Future - by most people known as the Brundtland Report - was published in 1987 and is the outcome of the work by the World Commission on Environment and Development. The report laid out the concept of sustainability as containing environmental, economic and social aspects.


In 1983, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) convened by the United Nations was created to address growing concern about the consequences of the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and the natural resources. The outcome of the work by the WCED was the report 'Our Common Future'.

The report was quickly named the Brundtland Report in recognition of the chairman of the WCED, Gro Harlem Brundtland. The report was published in 1987 and was the first to focus on global sustainability. It addressed governments, businesses and, above all, people whose welfare should be a key element for environmental and development policies. It provided a comprehensive overview of the major global environmental crisis and suggestions on how to solve these problems. The Brundtland report placed environmental issues firmly on the political agenda with the aim to discuss environment and development as a single and identical issue.

The report gathered different issues related to environmental problems and launched a comprehensive gateway to sustainability, which included social, economic, political-institutional and environmental criteria. The concept of sustainability created by the WCED has since been used and also redeveloped in the ongoing work with sustainability within different spheres. The Brundtland Report, however, has been criticised for toning down the social dimension of sustainability by organizations who have worked to maintain the original holistic idea. Among these are The Wuppertal Institute who further processed the Brundtland report.

The Brundtland Report and the concept of sustainability can be seen as an attempt to create awareness of the disturbing relations between human society and the natural environment, focusing on institutional, economic, ecological and social aspects. Sustainability is, however, not a clear cut homogeneous concept. It is a complex concept, which there is in praxis no consensus about, apart from the overall and quite broad principles. Today, the term is very commonly used but in effect the concept of sustainability is actively re-designed for the specific purpose at any given time and context. Nevertheless, the birth of the Brundtland report sustainability concept has influenced environmental laws and planning in a wide range of countries.

The publication of Our Common Future and the work of the World Commission on Environment and Development laid the groundwork for the convening of the Rio Declaration created at the 1992 Earth Summit, the adaptation of Agenda 21 and the establishment of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

Last updated Monday, October 31, 2016