Between Development and Sustainability: Symbiotic Synergy or Irreconcilable Duality


  • Agata Ferreira ESADE Business & Law School, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona



sustainable development, economic growth, 2030 Agenda, sustainability, environment


Aim: This paper studies the concept of sustainable development, which has been overly present in recent times on global arena of debates about issues most pressing to humanity in variety of contexts, political, legal, social and environmental. It has been appropriated by governments and NGOs alike. It is being advocated to promote both, continuous growth and reversal of unsustainable pattern of limitless growth. The aim of this paper is to follow the history of the concepts of development and sustainability, its evolution and current status and question whether future developments in the area of sustainable development are likely to support “development” part of it, through drive to maximum economic growth, increase of financial flows and investments, consumption and production; or whether the “sustainability” part of the agenda, with protection of environment, human rights and climate as a priority, will prevail.
Design / Research methods: The article follows the historical origins and developments of the concepts of development and sustainability, since industrial revolution of the eighteenth century where progress has been linked with economic growth and material advancement. The concept of sustainability on the other hand is closely connected with human relationship with nature, which went through a profound change when people started to make permanent settlements, domesticate animals and farm the land. This paper explains how sustainable development term rose to political prominence following publication of the Brundtland report in 1987 and how subsequent global political initiatives, like Agenda 21, Johannesburg Declaration and 2030 Agenda, gradually reaffirmed the place of sustainable development as an important element of international agenda and broadened the meaning of the term.
Conclusions / findings: The role of business partner is present in 10% of the examined enterprises, with the source of capital and the entity size being of minor importance. Projects play a key role in the development of contemporary undertakings. Moreover, the primary role in terms of the implementation of any organizational activities is exercised by people. Thus, the opportunity emerges to implement and modify the concept of HR business partnering. This will lead to a greater professionalization of staffing, which will ultimately affect positively the implementation of strategy of the organizations under discussion.
Originality / value of the article: The publications on project management as well as those concerned with human resources management have so far not addressed the issue of the development of the HR business partner role in the organizations under discussion. The considerations, of both theoretical and practical nature, contribute to the theory of management, being much relevant owing to the ever growing popularity of the concept of management through projects.

Author Biography

Agata Ferreira, ESADE Business & Law School, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona

Law Faculty, PhD Candidate


Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, UN Doc. A/CONF.151/26 (vol. I) / 31 ILM 874 (1992)

Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development, U.N. GAOR, 46th Sess., Agenda Item 21, UN Doc A/Conf.151/26

Anderson, J., W., Morgenstern, R., “The Future of Sustainable Development: The Johannesburg Conference and What Happens Next”, Resources for the Future, Issue Brief 03-06, July 2003

Bartlett, A., “Reflections on Sustainability, Population Growth, and the Environment” in Dorhrecht, S., The Future of Sustainability (2006)

Benton, T., The Greening of Machiavelli: The Evolutions of International Environmental Politics (1994)

Brundtland Report available at

Du Pisani, J., “Sustainable development – historical roots of the concept” (2006) Environmental Sciences, 3:2

Hickel, J., “The Problem with Saving the World. The UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals aim to save the world without transforming it.” Available at

Hicks, J., Value and capital: an inquiry into some fundamental principles of economic theory (1941)

Kenny, M., “Ecologism”, in Eccleshall, R., eds., Political ideologies: an introduction (1994)

Ki-Moon, B., Remarks of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at Ministerial Meeting of the Least Developed Countries on 1 October 2015, New York. Full statement available at:

Malthus, T., First essay on population. (An essay on the principle of population as it affects the future improvement of society, with remarks on the speculations of Mr Godwin, M. Condorcet, and other writers) (1798)

Mebratu, D., “Sustainability and Sustainable development: historical and conceptual review” (1998) Environmental Impact Assessment Review 18

Moore, H., “Global prosperity and sustainable development goals” (2015) Journal of International Development, 27

Pearce, D., Markandya, A., Barbier, E., Blue Print for a Green Economy (1989)

Pearce, F., "Earth at the Mercy of National Interests– Fred Pearce reports from Rio de Janeiro on the final days of the Earth Summit", New Scientist, 20 June 1992

Peet, R., Hartwick, E., Theories of development. Second Edition: Contentions, Arguments, Alternatives (2009)

So, A., Social change and development. Modernization, dependency, and world-system theories (1990)

Strong, M., Statement by Maurice F., Secretary General United Nations Conference on Environment & Development at Plenary Meeting Closing the United Nations Conference on Environment & Development, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil 14 June 1992 available at

The United Nations Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development, 4 September 2002, A/CONF.199/20

United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change, Adoption of Paris Agreement, FCCC/CP/2015/L.9, adopted on 12 December 2015

United Nations Millennium Declaration, Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly (55th sess. : 2000-2001), A/RES/55/2

United Nations Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015, A/RES/70/1

United Nations Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 27 July 2012, A/RES/66/288

Von Wright, G. H., “Progress: Fact and fiction”, in Burgen, A., McLaughhlin, P., Mittelstrab J, (eds) The idea of progress (1997)