All material growth and material development has to reach limits inherent in the outer and inner environment of the system. These limits are derived from the carrying capacity of natural systems. A systemic definition of sustainability would be staying within the limits of the carrying capacity.
Our growth obsessed economic paradigm drives humanity to overshoot various limits, resulting in resource depletion, climate change, desertification, shortage of resource, extinction of species, stress and disease, amongst others.
Should a systemic economic theory consider limits, as well as the negative value created by exceeding them? How can sustainability be incorporated into an economic theory? How can return on sustainable and unsustainable investment be separated, accounted for and measured?
If continued growth and development are to be sustained (e.g. because the population keeps growing), the production of goods and services needs to be transformed in order to stay within the given limits. For example, if we need more energy, we need to shift from non-sustainable to sustainable sources of energy. In this context we need to note that (non-)renewable and (non-)sustainable is not necessarily the same. For example, biodiesel is a renewable source of energy. However, its production is not sustainable in most regions of the world, given the increasing demand for food and pressure on the environment.