‘Sustainability’ figures routinely but prominently as a guiding principle for all those working in coastal management. In order to be able to progress coastal sustainability, it is necessary to understand more fully the normative structure of the concept by breaking down the key constructs inherent in the definition of sustainability. To this end a short questionnaire was disseminated to an ‘expert’ group of coastal and resource management professionals. The data gathered was analysed using the Qualitative Research Solutions (QSR) package, Nud*ist 6, and highlighted a number of theoretical concepts that were commonly held to be determinative of sustainability. These may form the basis for the future development of a ‘Coastal Sustainability Standard’.