Do you have a presentation to prepare? A paper to write? Are you looking for a caption to strengthen an illustration? Do you want to add credibility — or a poignant punch — to a point you’re trying to make, or are you simply in search of inspiration? Dive in into wonderful list quotes about sustainability.
Quotes are powerful. Sustainability — a broader concept that stands on social, human, economic, and environmental pillars, none of which can be ignored — is unquestionably the most pressing challenge of our time.
Despite the fact that growing numbers of citizens, consumers, farmers, artists, politicians, and entrepreneurs, or in short, “people”, are embracing both key sustainability values and thinking about the steps they need to take to follow those ideas up with action, we do need reminding from time to time.
Are you looking for quotes about sustainability that hit just the right note? That’d be for good reason.
A well-placed quote can, research has shown, amplify your message and spur change. Beautifully-worded messages from admired public figures, dire warnings from foremost scientists, or points made by people with lived experiences you don’t, yourself, have, can take your important points to the next level, and give them wings.
The only trouble?
Especially if you are in a bit of a hurry, famous quotes on sustainable development or riveting calls to action can be surprisingly difficult to find.
We’ve assembled a collection of the very best sustainability quotes to help you on your quest to do your very own bit to better the planet and all the creatures who live on it.
Not sure how to start looking for quotes about sustainability?
Don’t worry — because we have separated these famous sustainability quotes (and some that aren’t all that well-known yet, but should be) into handy sub-categories, you’ll find what you were after in no time. Happy quote hunting!
Quotes About the Meaning of Sustainability
Once in a while, someone will ask you what sustainability is. You might stumble on your words and find yourself in a bit of a tongue twister, but others who came before you have already done the hard work of defining sustainability. Here are some helpful quotes about sustainability, and its core meaning, to help you out.
- “Sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” — UN World Commission on Environment and Development, and first coined by the Bruntland Commission Report (specifically Gro Harlem Brundtland) in 1987.
- “Sustainability is the integration of environmental health, social equity, and economic vitality in order to create thriving, healthy, diverse and resilient communities for this generation and generations to come.” — UCLA Sustainability Committee, 2016.
- “We all need to work together, because there are no jobs on a dead planet; there is no equity without rights to decent work and social protection, no social justice without a shift in governance and ambition, and, ultimately, no peace for the peoples of the world without the guarantees of sustainability.” — Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.
- “Sustainability is no longer about doing less harm. It’s about doing more good.” — Jochen Zeitz, President and CEO of Harley-Davidson.
- “This supersedes political parties, race, creed, religion, it doesn’t matter. If we do not solve the environment, we’re all damned.” — Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.
See Related: How to Invest in Wind Energy?
Optimistic Inspirational Quotes About Sustainable Development
Maybe you need a message that will simply force your audience to get so carried away by the optimistic tides of change that they can’t help but want to be a part of the new world so many are trying to create right now?
These quotes about sustainability may be right for you!
- “The best way to predict future is to create it.” — Peter Drucker, leading thinker in business philosophy.
- “Sustainability, ensuring the future of life on Earth, is an infinite game, the endless expression of generosity on behalf of all.” — Paul Hawken, entrepreneur, author, and environmental activist.
- “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” — R. Buckminster Fuller, author, inventor, and architect.
- “We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” — Howard Zinn, historian, philosopher, and playwright.
- “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead, anthropologist.
See Related: Best Impact Investing Apps
Quotes About Sustainability in Business
Whether you are sending angry tweets to businesses who haven’t yet adopted sustainable development goals, or you work in corporate social responsibility, the fact that businesses play an enormous role in creating a more equitable and sustainable world cannot be ignored. These important quotes about sustainability can help you make your point more effectively.
- “Many business leaders are seeing the relationship between long term success and sustainability, and that’s very heartening.” — Jacqueline Novogratz, entrepreneur.
- “Sustainability includes how you run your business, and my bottom line includes how you treat your people. Sustainability starts with your staff.” — Tom Douglas, chef, author, and talk show host.
- “When sustainability is viewed as being a matter of survival for your business, I believe you can create massive change.” — Cameron Sinclair, architect and CEO of the Worldchanging Institute.
- “Businesses must reconnect company success with social progress. Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. It is not on the margin of what companies do but at the center. We believe that it can give rise to the next major transformation of business thinking.” — Michael Porter, academic and thinker.
- “Corporate social responsibility is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is a nice thing to do or because people are forcing us to do it… because it is good for our business” — Niall Fitzerald, former CEO, Unilever.
See Related: Environmental Justice Jobs
Sustainable Development Quotes that Serve as Wake-Up Calls
While there is absolutely no doubt that optimism — the spirit that tells us that change isn’t only needed, but also indeed very much possible — is a powerful force for change, a good dose of reality-based fear doesn’t go amiss either.
Sometimes you just need to scare people to take the challenges the planet is faced with today seriously, and in that case, these sustainable development quotes can guide them to their personal wake-up call.
- “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” — Robert Swan, polar explorer.
- “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” — W.H Auden, poet.
- “Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” — Carl Sagan
- “Climate change knows no borders. It will not stop before the Pacific islands and the whole of the international community here has to shoulder a responsibility to bring about a sustainable development.” — Angela Merkel, German Chancellor.
- “This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.” — Barack Obama, former President of the United States.
- “You say you love your children above all else and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.” — Greta Thunberg, climate activist.
See Related: The Pros and Cons of Electric Vehicle
Quotes About Sustainable Development for Consumers
Knowing that the small steps individual consumers take as they decide where and how to shop, where to bank, and how to use energy do, collectively, make a significant impact on the economic, social, and environmental future of our (still one and only) planet, you may be in search of quotes about sustainability directly targeted at consumers.
These quotes about sustainable development will get them to think.
- “We can’t just consume our way to a more sustainable world.” — Jennifer Nini, writer, activist, and entrepreneur.
- “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” — Edmund Burke, Irish statesman and famous philosopher.
- “No matter how complex global problems may seem, it is we ourselves who have given rise to them. They cannot be beyond our power to resolve.” — Daisaku Ikeda, Japaenese Buddhist philosopher, author, and educator.
- “Consume less; share better.” — Hervé Kempf, journalist and author.
- “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” — Albert Einstein, who needs no introduction.
- “Twenty-five years ago, people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse.” — Desmond Tutu, Archbishop and human rights activists, 2016.
See Related: Ways to Invest in Cobalt (Sustianably)
Sharp and Short Quotes About Sustainability
There will be times when you’ve got as long, or as many words, as you want to to get your message across. Those will be the times for long sustainable development quotes. Other times, however, you’ll be limited. Perhaps you are simply determined to keep your audience’s attention throughout, or perhaps you are cut short by more practical considerations. Either way, these short quotes about sustainable development will get you there.
- “There must be a better way to make the things we want, a way that doesn’t spoil the sky, or the rain or the land.” — Paul McCartney, musician.
- “Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that seems abstract – sustainable development – and turn it into a reality for all the world’s people” — Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General.
- “Without environmental sustainability, economic stability and social cohesion cannot be achieved.” — Phil Harding, archaeologist.
- “Real human beings take precedence over partisan interests; however, legitimate the latter may be.” — Pope Francis.
- “The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.” — Ross Perot, business magnate and philanthropist.
- “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States.
- “Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight.” — Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations Secretary-General.
- “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” — Mahatma Gandhi, champion of non-violent resistance.
- “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.” — Marshall McLuhan, philosopher.
- “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.” – Famous Native American proverb.
- “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it.” – Jay Inslee, attorney and politician.
- “Like music and art, love of nature is a common language than can transcend political or social boundaries.” — Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States.
We’ll admit that this is only the beginning of a long and deep treasure trove of important and famous quotes about sustainability, and by diving deeper down the rabbit hole, you’ll gain many more gems. It’s hard to choose the best sustainability quotes out of so many, isn’t it?
The people who spoke these words all had the chance to have their voices heard. They were influential enough, powerful enough, that they are quotable today. Adding their words to your own message can, in some situations, make your voice stronger, and make your point more quickly.
There’s another famous “quote” that’s been doing the round, though — “be the change you want to see in the world”. Contrary to popular belief, these hard-hitting words were never spoken by Gandhi.
That ultimately matters little, because they’re still true. Go forth and quote some of the most influential figures past and present, yes, but as you do your bit to fight for a more sustainable future, don’t forget to add your own.
You never know. You may just be quoted tomorrow.