The 2005 Global Summit on Social Development identified sustainable development as three concentrical ellipses representing Environment, Society and Economy going from the outside to the inside: in this way, economy is seen as a product of human activity, and the environment is the basic condition for human being.
This system takes into consideration the vision usually adopted by green enterprises, already known under several nouns: Triple Bottom Line (TBL or 3BL), The three Pillars of Sustainability, Three PS: People Planet Profit among others. However in this context the three circles are displayed as a Venn diagram, where sustainable development is the intersection between them.
If this method may sound correct to some, the Economic component has been taken in higher consideration, as it is a business-oriented scheme: according to this logic, social and environmental component are usually interpreted by the business owner as externalities that increase costs, thus they’re not fully integrated in the business model. In this way, they’re seen as a threat to the business, as costs to be reduced as much as possible. Instead, the wise enterprise should be able to look at them as opportunities, applying an organic/integrated approach.
Going beyond this model, a task force developed the Circles Of Sustainabily framework in 2008. This is the first framework that integrates political and cultural components according to the Agenda 21 of UN for Sustainable Development. The main domains are four: culture, politics, ecology and economy. The “social” component is not present, as it is an emerging quality of the whole diagram, generated as a function of human society.
However, this is still an experimental framework, as it is being used often in territory-related macro-analysis, such as metropolitan areas: in fact, only the UN Global Compact Cities Programme and the Metropolis Association are using it (they are the funders of the reasearch that led to CoS framework).