The origins of the term and concept of sustainable development are often dated to the 80s and 90s of the last century; namely to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held 1972 in Stockholm, to the follow-up installation of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1983 (known as the Brundtland Commission) and to the resulting publication of the book → Our Common Future in 1987 (know as the Brundtland Report). While this dating holds true for the beginning of earnest, large-scale sustainable development thinking, the concept of sustainable development or some of its basic underlying principles were already inherent in the thoughts of the ancients, e.g. → Aristotle (384–322 BC) and → Cicero (106–43 BC).
The English philosopher → David Hume appears to be the first that used the term (in its current meaning) within the English language:
«We may observe, that, in displaying the praises of any humane, beneficent man, there is one circumstance which never fails to be amply insisted on, namely, the happiness and satisfaction, derived to society from his intercourse and good offices. […] With him, the ties of love are consolidated by beneficence and friendship. [...] His domestics and dependants have in him a sure resource; and no longer dread the power of fortune, but so far as she exercises it over him. From him the hungry receive food, the naked clothing, the ignorant and slothful skill and industry. Like the sun, an inferior minister of providence, he cheers, invigorates, and sustains the surrounding world. […] If confined to private life, the sphere of his activity is narrower; but his influence is all benign and gentle. If exalted into a higher station, mankind and prosperity reap the fruit of his labours.» (Hume, 1751, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Section I, Part II)