Sustainability Constitutionalism

13 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2018

See all articles by James May

James May

Widener University Delaware Law School

Date Written: March 26, 2018


While sustainability in international and domestic legal orders has been well chronicled, this paper aims to do something original, which is to survey and contextualize the extent to which nations recognize sustainability in their constitutions, and the difference it has made in courts around the globe, called ‘sustainability constitutionalism.’ It concludes that while the constitutions of many nations incorporate sustainability, jurists and advocates have been slow to promote it as a proper legal outcome instead of merely a silent guiding principle.

This article has three parts. Part I provides a brief synopsis of sustainability as a legal concept. Part II then surveys how and the extent to which national constitutions incorporate sustainability, including those that advance public trust, and the interests of future generations. Part III regards judicial receptivity to sustainability constitutionalism, noting that it has yet to make much headway in courts. The article concludes that sustainability constitutionalism is under-valued and under-evaluated, and holds potential for further study and significance.

Keywords: sustainability, constitutional law, constitutionalism, environmental law, constitutions

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

May, James, Sustainability Constitutionalism (March 26, 2018). University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review, Vol. 86, 2018. Available at SSRN:

James May (Contact Author)

Widener University Delaware Law School ( email )

4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803-0406
United States

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