Skip main navigation

Brief History Of Sustainability

A brief history of sustainability within a business context, including a timeline.
Hans Carl von Carlowitz
© Marco Wagner
Sustainability has a relatively short history in business and has evolved rapidly in the last few decades.

The idea of sustainability as an economic concept came about in 1713 when chief mining official, Hans Carl von Carlowitz, published a document urging for the conservation of Saxony’s disappearing forests. This was the first time the principle of ‘continuously enduring and sustainable use’ was discussed.

From the mid-20th century, increased consumption put more strain on socio-economic and environmental resources and Carlowitz’s concept gained more popularity again.

At first, sustainability was largely driven by social and environmental science. Towards the end of the 20th century, it was brought to business. Many sustainability frameworks and reporting initiatives have emerged and evolved over the last 30 years.

Sustainability timeline

Graphic showing a timeline of sustainability

This article is from the free online

Introduction to Sustainability and Business Value

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now