A frog the size of a fingernail. A poncho-clad farmer leading his mule. A tree, some intertwining leaves, a silhouetted figure holding a pot. Such logos are stamped on labels of coffee, cocoa, mangoes, jeans and myriad other products, certifying that the object for sale is in some way “sustainable” — made, in other words, in a way that meets humanity’s needs without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own.
The idea of sustainable economic development was first proposed in the 1980s, when a commission established by the United Nations concluded that human activities were exhausting natural resources and launched efforts to tackle the problem.