The objective of this paper is to analyze the evolution of the scientific discourse regarding sustainability. 40000 abstracts were extracted from the Science Direct search engine, using "sustainable" or "sustainability" as keywords. Several text analysis techniques were combined to examine the scientific literature. The results show how discourse analysis of sustainability in the pre-Rio period is mostly focused on agriculture with an ecological and environmental emphasis. Though the post-Rio phase is still strongly connected to environmental issues, it takes on a holistic dimension that brings to light the social dimension. The issues of energy, knowledge transfer and the sustainability of urban areas become focal points. Moreover, the scientific debate highlights the relevance of indicators in an as-sessment and planning approach.