Sustainability-related indicators developed for governments

Authored by: L. Reijnders

Routledge Handbook of Sustainability Indicators

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138674769
eBook ISBN: 9781315561103
Adobe ISBN:


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Indicator sets for sustainability or sustainable development constructed for governments vary very much. Variations are linked to divergent interpretations of sustainability or sustainable development, to the range of objectives to be met and to differences in available data. The sustainability and sustainable development indicator sets surveyed here often regard a variety of economic, social and environmental aspects. Available objective statistics (e.g. turnout at elections) are often used but subjective data (e.g. trust in institutions) have also been included in such indicator sets. The indicator set proposed in 2016 for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is to be based on objective statistics. National implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is likely to lead to indicator sets diverging from the latter indicator set. Justice between the generations (operationalized as decision making as if one does not know to which generation one belongs) and the conservation of natural capital as a prerequisite to sustainable development appear not to be central to the development of the sustainability-related indicator sets constructed for governments surveyed here. Many sustainability-related indicator sets do not allow for a single or definite answer to the question whether or not there is progress towards sustainability. It would seem that sustainability-related indicator construction for national governments currently mainly aims at monitoring developments in view of what might be considered a more or less responsible good life of the present generation. There is a case for refocusing on intergenerational justice and on the conservation of natural capital as a prerequisite to sustainable development in the construction of indicator sets.

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