Meta-evaluation of sustainability indicators

From organizational to national level 1

Authored by: Tomás B. Ramos , Sandra Caeiro

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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Despite the diversity of methods and tools to evaluate sustainable development at any level from organizational to national level, indicators are one of the approaches most used. However, these tools do not usually include evaluation of the performance measurement instrument itself. The main objective of this chapter is to present a conceptual framework to design and assess the effectiveness of the sustainability indicators themselves. To put the proposed tool into practice, a set of key good-practice factors and meta-performance evaluation indicators is proposed. This framework allows to evaluate how appropriate a set of sustainability indicators is and allows an evaluation of overall performance of indicator monitoring, assessment, reporting and implementation activities and their results/impacts. Stakeholder involvement is an essential component of the proposed framework, exploring the role that could be played by stakeholders (non-experts and experts) as informal meta-evaluators. The stakeholders’ assessment of sustainability indicators can also be used as an indirect way for formal results evaluation, allowing for cross-validation. The proposed framework should be implemented through gradual and prioritized steps to mitigate practical difficulties, due to the complexity of institutional assessment and reporting processes. Successfully application cases worldwide demonstrate the usefulness of this approach and how this tool could support continuous improvement in the performance of ongoing sustainability indicator initiatives, allowing greater guidance, objectivity and transparency in sustainability assessment processes.

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