Resilience and sustainability: Similarities and differences in environmental management applications

Sci Total Environ. 2018 Feb 1;613-614:1275-1283. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.09.086. Epub 2017 Sep 26.


In recent years there have been many disparate uses of the terms sustainability and resilience, with some framing sustainability and resilience as the same concept, and others claiming them to be entirely different and unrelated. To investigate similarities, differences, and current management frameworks for increasing sustainability and resilience, a literature review was undertaken that focused on integrated use of sustainability and resilience in an environmental management context. Sustainability was defined through the triple bottom line of environmental, social and economic system considerations. Resilience was viewed as the ability of a system to prepare for threats, absorb impacts, recover and adapt following persistent stress or a disruptive event. Three generalized management frameworks for organizing sustainability and resilience were found to dominate the literature: (1) resilience as a component of sustainability, (2) sustainability as a component of resilience, and (3) resilience and sustainability as separate objectives. Implementations of these frameworks were found to have common goals of providing benefits to people and the environment under normal and extreme operating conditions, with the best examples building on similarities and minimizing conflicts between resilience and sustainability.

Keywords: Engineering policy; Environmental governance; Resilience; Review; Sustainability.