The following vision guides the work of the Center:
Within the Northwest, citizens provide the true leadership to a sustainable future through uncoordinated efforts within their respective spheres of influence. Although public agencies and businesses must play a key role, because of political and economic constraints, they cannot provide the bold leadership required for fundamental change in our culture. However, they can follow the lead of citizen agents of change.
The term “sustainability” has no accepted definition and is subject to being co-opted for commercial purposes. The following definitions are instructive:
- Sustainable development is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 
- Sustainability is equity over time. As a value, it refers to giving equal weight in your decisions to the future as well as the present. You might think of it as extending the Golden Rule through time, so that you do unto future generations (as well as to your present fellow beings) as you would have them do unto you. 
The Center was founded by Jeanne and Dick Roy, nationally recognized leaders in the sustainability movement. The Roys are also co-founders of the Northwest Earth Institute and the Oregon Natural Step Network.