In the social science research of the private sector, social and developmental impact is the broad term that describes the process by which a country, region, community, or an individual is better able to meet its full range of needs and aspirations as a result of changes in the social context. Societies that experience rapid or prolonged development tend to become more tolerant of differences, supporting various civic and social institutions, participating in economic markets, and experiencing less violent conflict. Development also tends to increase overall life expectancy and overall quality of life.
Societies with substantial poor human development tend to exhibit several key characteristics, such as lack of basic infrastructure, limited social inclusion, high infant and child mortality rates, vulnerability to infectious disease, poor health outcomes, low levels of education, income inequality, and unstable political environments. Developed nations with well-developed economies continue to experience notable gaps in life expectancy and overweight/unhealthy weights, and suffer from higher levels of income and poverty. The uneven distribution of land and natural resource wealth and differences in educational achievement and opportunity for girls in the developing world further exacerbate these issues. Economic globalization and inter-generational transmission of wealth have exacerbated the issues of exclusion and unequal access to resources, as well as their implications for the well-being of the poor and the emergence of undesirable risks such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Economic globalization, rapid urbanization, and a rise in the rate of technological and commercial developments have provided the foundation for growth in developing countries. These factors have resulted in unprecedented levels of financial development relative to the size of the economy, increased poverty and hunger, and environmental degradation. While these changes are largely positive in terms of overall economic development and contribute to a greater quality of life for the majority of people, they have had adverse consequences for those who are unable to benefit sufficiently. Lagging development indicators, environmental pollution, and infrastructural constraints constrain sustainable economic growth in many developing countries. A range of international and national policies have been developed to address these gaps in the human development agenda, but to date, little effort has been taken to address the development impact of international trade and its impact on the sustainability of economic growth.
The term sustainable development was first used in 1987 by the Bruntland Commission as a description of its approach to the issue of development. In its formulation, sustainable development attempts to achieve economic growth that is both balanced and reasonable. It is also guided by the principle of social equity and aims to protect the natural environment. It promotes economic growth that is consistent with human development and promotes equitable development in the developing world. The commission has since then adopted a variety of approaches to the issue of development and implementation of its recommendations.
The Green Network identifies four key drivers of sustainable economic growth, these are poverty alleviation, improved nutrition, energy efficiency and protection of the natural resources. It advocates policies and practices that will not only end extreme poverty, but will also ensure that the human development process occurs naturally, without external pressure, harassment or the loss of any human rights. It has been noted that economic growth can be a powerful agent in combating poverty and in achieving the longer-term goal of inclusive prosperity. This is because economic growth offers the potential for economic diversification – creating jobs in the short and long term, improving the quality and quantity of income produced per head, providing for needs at the food-food exchange, enhancing the opportunity for development through public goods and services, and allowing for natural resources to be fully exploited.
The term development can be seen as having different meanings for different individuals and communities across different cultures and nations. For instance, in the United States, development is viewed as the creation of an inclusive society with full access to good jobs, good health, and adequate education. On the other hand, in many parts of Asia, development is seen as providing opportunities for economic growth as well as living standards that are conducive to the social and spiritual well-being of people. While income levels tend to vary across the globe, the shared objective for sustainable development remains a common aspiration.