A commonly cited definition of sustainability comes from the Brundtland Commission report entitled "Our Common Future" (December 11, 1987). The Commission defined sustainable development as "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Not focused solely on environmental sustainability, the Commission's report emphasized the interrelated nature of environmental, economic, and social factors in sustainability. One of the keys to success in sustainability is recognizing that decision-making must be based on an integration of financial with environmental and social aspects.

Comprehensive Plan - Community Sustainability Element

The City of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan contains several elements, some mandated by the Growth Management Act, and others included because they are essential to Edmonds. The Comprehensive Plan consists of a Community Sustainability Element to provide a framework tying the other plan elements together, illustrating how the overall plan direction supports sustainability within the Edmonds community. This approach directly links long-term planning and shorter-term strategic planning and policy review, which guide the use of city resources and programs, especially budgeting. For example, emphasizing life cycle efficiency may precede simple, least-cost analytical methods.

The Washington State Department of Commerce recently released a draft model climate element as an example for municipalities to use when they opt to include a climate element. The proposed model element subdivides climate into two topics - resilience and mitigation. The resilience section helps local jurisdictions explore climate hazards and impacts, assess assets’ vulnerability and risk, identify policy gaps and barriers, and then select climate resilience goals and policies for their comprehensive plan. The mitigation section assists local jurisdictions measure their carbon footprint and then select comprehensive plan goals and policies that have a demonstrated ability to reduce local GHGs, in support of statewide climate goals.