At its first meeting in 1995 in Pilanesburg, South Africa, the Southern Africa Sustainable Use Specialist Group produced a set of ecological, economic and social principles for sustainable use. These were written up in the form of a booklet Sustainable Use Issues and Principles which was distributed at the First World Conservation Congress in Montreal, Canada in 1996.

Prior to the Tenth Meeting of SASUSG in June 2006, it was suggested that SASUSG should republish its original sustainable use principles. The matter was discussed and the members identified that sustainable use and conservation of biological diversity, in their treatment under the CBD and IUCN, are being considered within rather narrow confines. Both of these topics form no more than a subset of the larger principles affecting sustainable development and, without the reality check provided by the developmental needs of people, the present sustainable use principles would have limited application.

They expressed the wish that the entire subject be re-examined, that SASUSG should continue to maintain a southern African focus and that the time had come to move forward with the transition from 'sustainable use' to 'sustainable development'.

Accordingly, over the course of several years and including several rounds of revisions, an overarching conceptual framework was developed and published in 2009:

From Sustainable Use to Sustainable Development: Evolving Concepts of Natural Resource Management