This paper explores how two complex concepts, governance and sustainable development, can be linked in order to obtain a better understanding of their interactions. We argue that the many perspectives on sustainable development can be mapped on the continuum between ecological sustainability and quality of life. Likewise, the variety of modes of governance can be captured between hierarchical governance and deliberative governance, depending on the degree of involvement of societal actors. From these two typologies we derive a framework for analysis of governance for sustainable development. We realize that the typology is a significant simplification of the complex debates about sustainable development and governance, but it might help scientists and policy makers to explore relevant dimensions of modes of governance for sustainable development and for setting a framework for empirical analysis. The main conclusion of this paper is that the debate on governance for sustainable development will be clarified if the perspective on sustainable development and the mode of governance for achieving it are made more explicit. Problems that are now exclusively associated with sustainable development might well be problems of governance for sustainable development. Without making explicit what type of governance for sustainable development is pursued, miscommunication between stakeholders and mismatches of the approach with the instruments used could be the result, thus hampering progress in implementing sustainable development.