Three pillars of sustainability

The 2005 World Summit on Social Development identified sustainable development goals, such as social development (people), environmental protection (planet) and  economic development (profit). This view has been expressed as an illustration using three overlapping ellipses indicating that the three pillars of sustainability are not mutually exclusive and can be mutually reinforcing. The three pillars, People, Planet and Profit have served as a common ground for numerous sustainability standards and certification systems in recent years. Some sustainability experts and practitioners have illustrated four pillars of sustainability. the fourth pillar is future generations, which emphasizes the long-term thinking associated with sustainability.


Among the many ways that sustainability has been defined, the simplest and most fundamental is: "the ability to sustain" or, put another way, "the capacity to endure."

Today, it is by no means certain our society has the capacity to endure – at least in such a way that the nine billion people expected on Earth by 2050 will all be able to achieve a basic quality of life. The planet's ecosystems are deteriorating and the climate is changing. We are consuming so much, and so quickly, that we are already living far beyond the earth's capacity to support us. And yet nearly a sixth of our fellow humans go to bed hungry each day: both an unnecessary tragedy and a source of social and political unrest. Meanwhile, our globalized world is more interconnected and volatile than ever, making us all more vulnerable.

While sustainability is about the future of our society, for today's industries and businesses, it is also about commercial success. The mandate to transform businesses to respect environmental limits while fulfilling social wants and needs has become an unparalleled platform for innovation on strategy, design, manufacturing and brand, offering massive opportunities to compete and to adapt to a rapidly evolving world.

EU Policy and cosmetics

Europe is a world leader in the cosmetics industry and dominant cosmetics exporter. The sector is highly innovative and provides significant employment in Europe. The EU’s involvement mainly concerns the regulatory framework for market access, international trade relations, and regulatory convergence. These all aim to ensure the highest level of consumer safety while promoting the innovation and the competitiveness of this sector.

The European Commission is also in contact with cosmetics stakeholders at EU and international level. This cooperation enables the exchange of information and ensures the smoother implementation of EU requirements in the sector.