Sustainability, as a concept, is looking for continuity of society and the environment in complimentary and progressive (rather than degrading) ways.
Until recently, many manufacturing developments were driven by local economic requirements (cost reduction) or arose from technology developments which provided immediate advantage.
While developments made in this way may result in improved sustainability, they are not necessarily driven by a clear vision or understanding of the need for sustainable development. Sustainable development takes into account all the implications (for downstream and upstream activities) of adopting new approaches.
For a product to be fully sustainable, consideration must be given to:
- Source of raw materials
- Control of pollutants arising from manufacture
- Efficient use of energy
- Production working environment
- End of life, recycling
Also see What is whole-life cost?