Justice & Sustainability


Justice concerns more than a just income and a just wealth distribution, because it is a central presupposition for sustainability. Why is this so? Justice within a present generation and between present and future generation is a precondition for sustainability.


Justice has been a well-established notion since antiquity – see e.g. the Politeia by Plato. As Socrates noted, a just state and a just soul is governed by reason, not by human desires. The notion of sustainability arose in public discourse with the ‘Report of the Club of Rome on the State of Humanity: The Limits to Growth’ (Meadows et al. 1972). When referring to the natural basis of life, we mean the resources provided by nature that are necessary to support human life and cannot be substituted by man-made artefacts.

Sustainability has three dimensions: the economic, what is just and the ecological. Mainstream Economics and public discourse focus on the economic und just dimensions, while the ecological dimension is largely ignored. Ecological Economics focuses on the latter one.

This concept presents a conceptual framework for sustainability and justice. The concept of justice is developed in terms of distributional justice and in the sense of order justice (a sort of constitutional justice) as well; the latter is crucial for solving environmental problems. We show how closely sustainability and justice are interrelated.

This concept serves as a bridge between the general concepts of sustainability and justice and their concrete components. One major outcome is that the growth paradigm turns out not to be the solution but an obstacle to achieving a sustainable world.

As a practical example, we show how we can achieve a sustainable world. It is very unlikely that we will be able to decouple economic growth from environmental burden. It is crucial that we attain sufficiency in society, for sufficiency identifies what is enough to live a good life (Schneidewind and Zahrnt 2013; Zahrnt and Zahrnt 2016).

Key Contributers: Christian BeckerDieter EwringmannFrank JöstBernd KlauerJ.L.R. ProopsJohannes SchillerAngelika Zahrnt