Emerging in the late 1980s, the concept of sustainable development is well-established today and figures widely in the thinking of the political and economic leaders of the developed nations. France is no exception and sustainable development (though its definition may vary from one person or organization to another) is quite a widely shared objective. Yet, though the idea has become familiar to most French people, in practice it is difficult to find evidence of the implementation of its underlying principles.
By contrast, as Cornelia Findeisen shows here, the Germans are not so aware of the discourses around sustainable development, the notion as such being a relatively unfamiliar one to them, but it is something they practice on a very regular basis and this has been the case for a long time (since long before it became “fashionable”), both in their daily lives and public policies. Might there be a cultural explanation for this behavioural difference between the two nations? And, if so, is it set to persist? Should we rethink the way we talk about sustainable development in both France and Germany in order to make way for practices that actually conform to the precept and/or ensure the continuity of such practices? These are the main questions explored in this article.