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Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development

We only have one planet, but we’re living as if we had almost two available to us. This is why sustainable development has to be more than just a catchphrase and must be turned into concrete commitment.

What is sustainable development?

Living Today by Thinking about Tomorrow

Over the years, many definitions have been used to communicate the concept of sustainable development. The most famous description, universally recognized, comes from 1987:

What might seem like a complex definition can actually be explained in a much simpler way. Sustainable development means learning to live within the limits of one single planet: in a fair and dignified manner for all, without exploiting – until depletion – the natural systems we draw resources from and without exceeding their ability to absorb the waste generated by our activities. Without sacrificing opportunities for current generations or the generations of the future.

Imagine social sustainability, economic sustainability and environmental sustainability as three large circles. Move them together slowly, until they overlap to form a small area common to all three. That area is sustainable development: the goal we aspire to.

If we ignore this approach, we run two big risks: we’ll demand an unsustainable effort from the planet to give us its reserves (whether food or energy), and there will be a real possibility that many people will not be able to access resources in a dignified way. A blanket that shrinks day after day, on a bed that stays the same size.

Sustainable Development Goals

The UN’s Commitment

What is the path to follow in order to pursue sustainable development? The answer is in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan of action for people, the planet and prosperity signed in September 2015 by the 193 member states of the UN. In it, 17 Sustainable Development Goals SDGs – were identified in one broader plan of action, for a total of 169 objectives to meet. The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals were put in place on 1 January 2016: countries committed to achieve the goals over the next fifteen years.

The SDGs are common goals on a set of issues that are key to development: fighting poverty, eliminating hunger and tackling climate change, to name a few. They are goals that concern all countries and all individuals: no one can be left behind on the path of sustainable development.

The backbone of the Sustainable Development Goals is made up of the “5 Ps”:



End poverty and hunger in all forms and ensure dignity and equality.



Ensure prosperous and fulfilling lives in harmony with nature.



Foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

hands shaking


Implement the agenda through a solid global partnership.



Protect our planet’s natural resources and climate for future generations.

The Enel Group has made a formal commitment to four of the SDGs: affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), sustainable cities and communites (SDG 11) and implementing actions aimed at decarbonization by 2050 (SDG 13).

Why are they important?

There is no planet B

Sustainable development is a choice that allows for no second thoughts. It must be shared and is of dramatic urgency:


A shared vision

The SDGs have been shared by all the Member States of the United Nations: a sign of strong global awareness.



Sustainable development is the only way to safeguard biodiversity and ensure the survival of endangered animal species.


We can’t go back

The increase in global population and the resulting demand for resources is irreversible: only sustainable development can ensure the correct balance.

Circular Economy

A Strategic Ally for Sustainable Development

Using the approaches of the circular economy is key to addressing the issues of resource scarcity, global warming and waste management.

Earth Overshoot Day

One Earth Isn’t Enough for Us

On 29 July 2019, humanity used up the annual budget of resources that the Earth can regenerate – more than 5 months before the end of the year. That day is called Earth Overshoot Day and it has not fallen on 31 December since 1971. Every year it comes earlier and earlier.

Consuming all the resources Earth can regenerate annually early means that all the demands necessary for human survival, from Overshoot Day on, can only be met by drawing on non-renewable reserves of soil, forests, timber, livestock, and fishing. Or by putting more damaging emissions into the atmosphere.

Today, we are living as if we had 1.75 planets available to us, on average. To ensure sustainable development, we need to start moving Overshoot Day five days later every year. If we do that, we’ll get to consuming the Earth’s resources sustainably before 2050. How can we do this? Just think – simply by halving CO2 emissions from conventional fuels, the resource end date would jump forward by 93 days. 

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