Sustainable development was defined in the World Commission on Environment and Development’s 1987 Brundtland report ´Our Common Future` as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. It seeks to reconcile economic development with the protection of social and environmental balance.
In 2001, the EU adopted a strategy in favour of sustainable development. This was revised in 2006 providing ‘a long-term vision for sustainability in which economic growth, social cohesion and environmental protection go hand in hand and are mutually supporting’.
The European Commission’s review of the strategy in 2009 highlighted the persistence of some unsustainable trends and the need for greater efforts in their regard. However, it also noted the EU’s progress in mainstreaming sustainable development in many of its policies (including trade and development) and pointed to the lead it has taken in regard to climate change and promoting a low-carbon economy.
Sustainable development formally became one of the European Union’s long-term goals under Article  3(3) of the Treaty on European Union.