This word is occurring more and more. Sustainability can invoke fundamental yet complex concepts. What is sustainability? The word is derived from the Latin sustinere (tenere, to hold; sus, up). Dictionaries provide many meanings for sustain, the main ones being to “maintain", "support", or "endure”.
The most frequently used professional definition states: “Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This comes from the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (also known as the Brundtland Report), an early landmark in developing what sustainability is today.
At larger scales, sustainability refers to attaining and ensuring a long-term balance among complex social, economic, and environmental systems. The goal of between-generation transfer of our current quality of life is fundamental; this requires thinking about present resource consumption - in terms of future resource needs. There are dozens of examples: many involve the adoption of best management practices - routines that improve near-term efficiency and long-term production.
Sustainability jobs often focus on developing best practices to ensure long-term system resilience. The Sustainability FAQs link has much additional information on the types of jobs in sustainability. Check out Table 1 at the end of that link for several detailed job lists.
As it sounds, sustainability often involves interdisciplinary tasks driven by the unique details of many different positions in diverse fields:
The goal of improving system operations across generations is critical; this requires research skills to manage current resource uses with future needs in mind to determine what is sustainable and improve what is not. Therefore, expertise in the measurement and analysis of metrics and indicators is fundamental to advanced sustainability practices.