While we use both the words interchangeably, it is necessary to know how each has its own dependence on the other as sustainability cannot be achieved without conservation.

Generally, conservation is preserving our biological and ecological resources while sustainability can be seen as a goal that inexplicitly means to protect and preserve the natural resources for the benefit of future generations. From a dictionary definition, we can describe both as nouns with a slight difference in terms of meaning. Conservation is the act of preserving, guarding, or protecting something; the safekeeping of a thing or preservation while sustainability is simply the ability to sustain something. 

Definitions and meanings


If we look at the word sustainability, we can derive three morphemes: sustain, -able, and -ity. Sustain literally means to give support to, to hold up, to keep up, or to bear. When it is linked to -able, we form sustainable, which is an adjective for something that is able to be maintained or continued at a certain rate or level. When we add the suffix -ity, we form sustainability which can certainly be seen as the process by which something is maintained or continued at a certain level. We defined it this way because currently, there is no universal or standard definition for the word sustainability. It has only gained highlight and was used in a more precise way because of the various economic, social, cultural, and environmental problems different nations are confronted with. It gained even more limelight when sustainability was made the concept of the developmental goals set by the United Nations. Because of such popularity, sustainability was defined as a collection of processes and courses of action that people can do to minimize and avoid the consumption of natural resources so we can maintain an ecological balance and improve the quality of human life. 


Straightforwardly, conservation is one of the pathways to sustainability. Generally, it means taking action towards the long-term preservation of natural resources before they deplete or humans consume them until nothing is left. According to the Cambridge English dictionary, conservation is specifically defined as the protection of plants, animals, and natural areas. This is in line with the word’s earliest definition published in the World Conservation Strategy in 1980 from which three main tenets of what should be considered in conservation are revealed: maintaining essential ecological processes and life-support systems, preserving genetic diversity, and ensuring the sustainable utilization of species and moreover, the ecosystem. 

Both ideas clearly suggest the strategy we need to make for us to protect the world. Both words also shed light on the role humans play in its protection, consumption, preservation in as much as its destruction.

Difference between sustainability and conservation

With the above, it is quite easy to analyze and understand that conservation is a requirement. It is imperative to carry through sustainability since the preservation of resources, which includes water, soil, and fossil fuels are directly linked to ensuring the capability of the future generations to meet their own needs or simply preparedness.

However, the only glaring difference between sustainability and conservation is that conservation is apparently focused on the inherent negative impact of humans and their activities on the environment while sustainability, on the other hand, works on improving the implications of the human race or rather the growing population on the environment.


Sustainability positively recognizes the impending reality that humans can really have a detrimental effect on the environment but it can also be with the help of humans that we can control these effects. It is safe to say, therefore, that sustainability is associated with positive actions or doable, feasible solutions. Conservation, however, in historical accounts, focuses on the depletion of natural resources and thinks that the only solution to preserve natural resources is to remove humans from the big picture entirely.