For a generation, governments around the world have been committed to sustainable development as a policy goal. This has been supported by an array of new policies ranging from international agreements, to national strategies, environmental laws at many levels of government, regional programs, and local plans. Despite these efforts, decades of scientific monitoring indicate that the world is no closer to environmental sustainability and in many respects the situation is getting worse. This paper argues that a significant contributing factor to this situation is policy implementation failure. A systematic review of the literature reveals that the failure to achieve the intended outcomes of environmental policies is due to economic, political and communication factors. Conflict between the objectives of environmental policies and those focused on economic development, a lack of incentives to implement environmental policies, and a failure to communicate objectives to key stakeholders are all key factors that contribute to the inability to attain environmental sustainability.