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Triangle of Sustainability - What is it?

The triangle of sustainability simply explained

What is the triangle of sustainability? Whether climate change or World hunger - We humans have maneuvered ourselves into an unpleasant situation through our behavior on this planet, and today more than ever we have to deal with the biggest environmental and social problems of our time have to deal with. And all because we have not used our planet's resources responsibly. Instead, we have lived irresponsibly - irresponsibly towards future generations who will inhabit this planet.

The sustainability triangle is a concept that can help us optimize our behavior in every respect. I would like to introduce it to you in this article.

  1. Definition
  2. Three pillars
  3. Application example
  4. Closing words

What is the triangle of sustainability?

The triangle of sustainability (also known as the three-pillar model) is a model for the further development of a sustainable society based on the following principles ecological, economic and social goals implemented simultaneously be taken into account. All three pillars of the sustainability triangle are of equal importance, are interdependent and should therefore be assessed as a whole. For example, soil contaminated with pollutants reduces crop yields from arable land, which in turn puts the farmer under financial pressure.

The model is fundamentally aimed at satisfying the needs of people currently living and all future generations.

The three pillars of the sustainability triangle

The triangle of sustainability

All three pillars have their role and should work together to ensure that all life on earth is fair, worth living and viable.

  • Ecology + social = worth living
  • Economy + ecology = viable
  • Social + economic = fair

Here I would like to explain the pillars of the sustainability triangle in more detail and using the example of dam construction in China explain.


This pillar relates primarily to the protection of our environment. A goal that ecological action and the careful use of natural resources must be achieved. Every person leaves their own ecological footprint through driving, regular air travel on vacation or our own diet. The "ecology" pillar is based on the fundamental idea that we humans should not consume more resources than can be generated in the same period of time.

Example dam constructionMany animal and plant species are losing their habitat, which has to make way for the huge dam.

Tip: If you could use some more inspiration for your personal eco-friendly everyday life, take a look at the article now Environmental protection tips for everyday life.


The economic pillar of the triangle naturally refers to the companies. The focus of a sustainably operating company should not be on maximum profit, but on long-term existence. The latter is only given if the company does not act at the expense of the people in the region and not at the expense of the environment. Every single person - but also every single company - should not consume more resources in the sense of the sustainability triangle than nature can generate in the same period of time.

Example dam constructionThe construction industry gets new orders and regional companies get cheaper electricity.


The "social" pillar refers to the responsibility of our own actions towards other people. The basic aspects of sustainable action in this respect are above all justice, equal opportunities and solidarity. The right to education, the creation of jobs, fair pay and meaningful care for those who have already retired from working life are at the forefront of this. The aim of the "social" must be to ensure that all people currently living on this planet can enjoy the same opportunities and quality of life.

Example dam constructionResidents have to relocate and give up their livelihoods, while other people are happy about cheaper electricity prices.

Conclusion: The sustainability of the dam project can now be weighed up with the help of the sustainability triangle. As there are both negative and positive effects, a compromise must be found in this case.

Another example of application

The triangle of sustainability can therefore be used very well to critically scrutinize a specific project with regard to the three pillars mentioned. The size of the project is irrelevant - it could be the construction of a swimming pool in your own garden, for example, or, as marked in green, the construction of a dam on the Yangtze River in China. I would now like to give you another, very positive application example:

  1. A kindergarten with an energy-efficient building made from environmentally friendly building materials is to be built and opened. (Environment)
  2. The costs are identical to the construction of an ordinary kindergarten building. (Economy)
  3. Up to 80 children can learn, play and do handicrafts in this kindergarten, which also creates 25 jobs for educators. (Social)

Tip: You can also use the basic ideas of the sustainability triangle to improve your Making everyday life more sustainable. You can find out how to get started in the linked article.

The sustainability triangle for more environmentally and socially responsible action

Triangle of sustainability explained

Even if political factors and the relationships between the three classes are only taken into account to a limited extent, the sustainability triangle model provides a useful tool for evaluating projects in terms of their future viability. We should take it to heart so that sustainable coexistence is possible in our society.

What do you think about the sustainability triangle? And when have you used it so far? I look forward to your comment.

Stay sustainable,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS.: In the Knowledge blog I have prepared many more sustainability topics for you. For example, take a direct look at the problems with the Mass tourism.

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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