When interpreting the meaning of one particular dimension of sustainability, perhaps the greatest disparity can be found in economic sustainability, where there are two fundamentally different definitions.
The concept of economics
The concept of economics can be traced back to the Greek language and its "study of managing scarce resources". From a sustainability perspective, we can now see that the definition of economics can be broadened and seen from different perspectives and definitions.
An important difference between economic sustainability and ecological and social sustainability is that the economic structures are created by man. Thus, we also have the opportunity to see them from different perspectives as well as to influence them in order to promote sustainable development.
There are several definitions of economic sustainability. The differences between two of these are due to the use of different sustainability models as a starting point. In the first of these two definitions, economic sustainability is understood to be economic development that does not have a negative impact on ecological or social sustainability. An increase in economic capital must therefore not be at the expense of a reduction in natural capital or social capital.
In the second definition, economic sustainability is equated with economic growth, which is considered sustainable as long as the total amount of capital increases. Increased economic capital can thus be allowed at the expense of a reduction of other assets in the form of natural resources, ecosystem services or welfare.
Finally, there are even those who refrain from using economic sustainability as a concept and instead talk about the economy as a tool, where its structures and institutions either promote or inhibit sustainable development. Which of these definitions should prevail is a question of values among researchers, and full agreement has yet to be reached.