The number of books and papers bearing the terms ‘sustainable development’ and ‘governance’ in their titles has grown exponentially in the last decade or so. The main purpose of this paper is to explore what meanings have been attached to these two essentially contested terms and to assess the extent to which the material on them constitutes an important, coherent, and cumulative body of scholarship. The first half explores the existing literatures on the two terms, and draws out some of the main similarities and differences. Drawing on papers that have been published in this journal over the last decade or so, the second half focuses on the attempts that have been made to build empirical and/or theoretical bridges between the two terms. The concluding section identifies a number of key themes and explores future research needs in what is evidently a vibrant and highly policy-relevant area of environmental social science research.