Sustainable development, although a widely used phrase and idea, has many different meanings and therefore provokes many different responses. In broad terms, the concept of sustainable development is an attempt to combine growing concerns about a range of environmental issues with socio-economic issues. To aid understanding of these different policies this paper presents a classification and mapping of different trends of thought on sustainable development, their political and policy frameworks and their attitudes towards change and means of change. Sustainable development has the potential to address fundamental challenges for humanity, now and into the future. However, to do this, it needs more clarity of meaning, concentrating on sustainable livelihoods and well-being rather than well-having, and long term environmental sustainability, which requires a strong basis in principles that link the social and environmental to human equity.