The first vulnerability framework for sustainability science was published about two decades ago. It embedded vulnerability analysis into the foundational lens of sustainability and resilience research – the social-environmental system (SES) – and called for an integration of the vulnerabilities of the social and environmental subsystems as opposed to the dominating attention given at the time to societal vulnerability. The framework recognised that the environment itself is vulnerable to disturbances and that the interactions of the two subsystems create a system-wide vulnerability central to questions of sustainability or sustainable development. It also provided multiple components of analysis that should be considered if vulnerability research and assessments were to contribute more fully to sustainability themes. Using bibliometric analysis and attention to subsequent vulnerability publications, various impacts of this original framework on vulnerability studies were examined in the study, including its recognition by citations, citation pathways and fields of study, and the degree to which its various dimensions were employed. It was found that its large citation recognition was not necessarily matched by attention to the dimensions the framework proposed, noting several exceptions.