The most recognised explanation of sustainable development can be found in the introduction of the so called Brundtland Report of 1987, where it is defined as the idea, “[…] which implies meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainable development is not merely a way of implementing certain kind of usage of resources; it could rather be explained as a way of measures in terms of executing political ideas.
The Arctic Council was founded upon the idea of sustainable development and the Ottawa declaration (the Arctic Councils founding document) clearly states it as the key component of the council’s ideology. It states:
"Affirming our commitment to sustainable development in the Arctic region, including economic and social development, improved health conditions and cultural well-being; Affirming concurrently our commitment to the protection of the Arctic environment, including the health of Arctic ecosystems, maintenance of biodiversity in the Arctic region and conservation and sustainable use of natural resources."
Thus, as Arctic shipping effects various fields of economic, social and legal matters, sustainable development cannot be removed of that equation. Arctic shipping will have both positive and negative impacts on the Arctic. The idea is that no particular activity would be able to compromise other activities, so that e.g. subsistence hunting would not need to retreat from massive undertaking of exploitation of non-renewables.
Industrial activities, as a matter of fact, sometimes interfere with customary activities of Arctic residents, in particular aboriginal residents, when these activities harm the environment or compete for land use.
As many small activities might become more competitive against similar activities in other places of the world with Trans-Arctic shipping, that alone does indicate encouragement for it. This is why sustainable development is an important factor that needs to be taken into consideration in discussion on Trans-Arctic shipping.