What is intergenerational equity?

Intergenerational Equity is defined as:

“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”

It articulates the concept of fairness amongst all generations in the use and conservation of the environment and its natural resources.

In the 1980s, Edith Brown Weiss identified the principle of intergenerational equity, in which all generations hold the Earth in common as a trust. Meaning that, people are both beneficiaries entitled to use the environment and its resources, and at the same time trustees (or custodians) with an obligation to pass it on in no worse condition on balance than that in which it was received.

The elements of the principle meet four criteria: 

  • They neither authorise unreasonable exploitation by the present generation nor impose unreasonable burdens on it
  • They not require predicting the values of future generations and provide flexibility to future generations to achieve their own goals
  • They be reasonably clear in application to foreseeable situation
  • They be generally shared by different cultural traditions and acceptable to different economic and political system


Collectively, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a starting point for intergenerational equity. For further information on the Sustainable Development Goals, click here 


  • Become knowledgeable about SDGs
  • Make informed, sustainable purchases
  • Implement personal sustainability practices at home
  • Be engaged in local community sustainability efforts (Sustainability Calendar)
  • Make a commitment to take action (Sustainable Singleton Pledges)