Sustainable development stems from concern over the social and environmental impacts of economic development, and it aims to achieve progress through 'win-win-win' solutions based on the integration of environment, economic and social policy objectives. Sustainable development takes into consideration the needs of the future as well as the present, and it is in this sense that development, or improvements to people's quality of life, is considered 'sustainable' into the future. The concept of sustainable development also places high priority on the benefits of development being spread in a fair manner through society. One of the main policy priorities of sustainable development is the integration of environmental concerns into all the areas of government and private initiative.
Sustainable development cannot however be the task only of government, although government has the role to champion more sustainable development patterns and implement policies and measures to achieve this. Ultimately, sustainable development requires changes to consumption and production patterns such as how we travel, how we eat and how we heat and cool our homes on the one hand and how we produce industrial goods and food on the other. Due to the importance of society as a whole being involved in the transition to more sustainable lifestyles, public participation in sustainable development projects and policy-making is given much importance.
In Malta one of the most important sustainable development initiatives has been the setting up of the National Commission for Sustainable Development. One of the principal tasks of the NCSD is to prepare a National Strategy for Sustainable Development.
Sustainable development is increasingly becoming a central focus of policy at a national level. Both the Environment Protection Act (2001) and the Development Planning Act (2002), which govern the workings of MEPA, have the goal of sustainable development enshrined within them. Thus in its policy and decisions MEPA strives to integrate the themes of promoting social and economic development with enhancing and protecting the environment and society. It is also increasingly being recognised that environmental policy also needs to be integrated into other areas of government, and the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment has now set up a network of Green Leaders across government, with one Green Leader per Ministry.
Sustainable Development policy on an international, European, Mediterranean and National level is made within the framework provided by sustainable development strategies at all these levels.