Tuija-Maija Takala, Matti Häyry*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Sustainability, properly understood, is an existential moral ideal. The United Nations, however, defines it in terms of 17 indivisible sustainable development goals. This definition changes the core idea of the concept. It turns sustainability from a moral ideal into a set of economy-based political aspirations. The European Union's bioeconomy strategy demonstrates the shift aptly and reveals its main problem. When economy is prioritized, social and ecological concerns become secondary. This has been the United Nations line since the Brundtland Commission's report, Our Common Future in 1987. Considerations of justice illustrate the inadequacy of the approach. Equality and justice require that all those affected by decisions are heard in making them. Under the current operationalization, decisions related to the natural environment and climate change are currently being made without hearing voices that advocate deeper social and ecological equality. After an explication of the problem and the state of the art as outlined above, a new notion of justainability is introduced and it is argued that assuming it would be a step in the right direction in taking also noneconomic values properly into account in international decision making.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCambridge quarterly of healthcare ethics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jun 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Brundtland
  • European Union
  • green shift
  • just transition
  • justice
  • sustainability
  • sustainable development goals
  • United Nations


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