Abstract

Sustainability is a grand challenge of our time. While there is a universal recognition that sustainability includes social, economic, and environmental components, the relationship and interchangeability between these components has been debated, resulting in three distinct sustainability perspectives: weak, strong, and absurdly strong sustainability. However, despite this active debate, few have questioned which types of sustainability commonly utilized index forms actually measure. Here we provide such an analysis, focusing on the interplay between the mathematical forms of sustainability indices and the three sustainability perspectives. We show that the computational underpinning of a sustainability index defines what type of sustainability the index is capable of measuring, while also providing alternative forms. We then provide a brief example of how these different sustainability perspectives can radically alter measured sustainability. We end with a call for sustainability researchers to be conscious of the values underlying index formation, deliberate in index selection, and explicit in result presentation, so that the scientific and stakeholder communities are better informed of sustainability assessments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 31 2016

Fingerprint

sustainability
indicator
social economics
index
stakeholder
economics

Keywords

  • strong sustainability
  • Sustainability indicators
  • weak sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Geography, Planning and Development

Cite this

The problems of weak sustainability and associated indicators. / Wilson, Maxwell C.; Wu, Jianguo.

In: International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 31.01.2016, p. 1-8.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{01c4bafe3d224ae8bf794b9eead724b0,
title = "The problems of weak sustainability and associated indicators",
abstract = "Sustainability is a grand challenge of our time. While there is a universal recognition that sustainability includes social, economic, and environmental components, the relationship and interchangeability between these components has been debated, resulting in three distinct sustainability perspectives: weak, strong, and absurdly strong sustainability. However, despite this active debate, few have questioned which types of sustainability commonly utilized index forms actually measure. Here we provide such an analysis, focusing on the interplay between the mathematical forms of sustainability indices and the three sustainability perspectives. We show that the computational underpinning of a sustainability index defines what type of sustainability the index is capable of measuring, while also providing alternative forms. We then provide a brief example of how these different sustainability perspectives can radically alter measured sustainability. We end with a call for sustainability researchers to be conscious of the values underlying index formation, deliberate in index selection, and explicit in result presentation, so that the scientific and stakeholder communities are better informed of sustainability assessments.",
keywords = "strong sustainability, Sustainability indicators, weak sustainability",
author = "Wilson, {Maxwell C.} and Jianguo Wu",
year = "2016",
month = "1",
day = "31",
doi = "10.1080/13504509.2015.1136360",
language = "English (US)",
pages = "1--8",
journal = "International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology",
issn = "1350-4509",
publisher = "Taylor and Francis Ltd.",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The problems of weak sustainability and associated indicators

AU - Wilson, Maxwell C.

AU - Wu, Jianguo

PY - 2016/1/31

Y1 - 2016/1/31

N2 - Sustainability is a grand challenge of our time. While there is a universal recognition that sustainability includes social, economic, and environmental components, the relationship and interchangeability between these components has been debated, resulting in three distinct sustainability perspectives: weak, strong, and absurdly strong sustainability. However, despite this active debate, few have questioned which types of sustainability commonly utilized index forms actually measure. Here we provide such an analysis, focusing on the interplay between the mathematical forms of sustainability indices and the three sustainability perspectives. We show that the computational underpinning of a sustainability index defines what type of sustainability the index is capable of measuring, while also providing alternative forms. We then provide a brief example of how these different sustainability perspectives can radically alter measured sustainability. We end with a call for sustainability researchers to be conscious of the values underlying index formation, deliberate in index selection, and explicit in result presentation, so that the scientific and stakeholder communities are better informed of sustainability assessments.

AB - Sustainability is a grand challenge of our time. While there is a universal recognition that sustainability includes social, economic, and environmental components, the relationship and interchangeability between these components has been debated, resulting in three distinct sustainability perspectives: weak, strong, and absurdly strong sustainability. However, despite this active debate, few have questioned which types of sustainability commonly utilized index forms actually measure. Here we provide such an analysis, focusing on the interplay between the mathematical forms of sustainability indices and the three sustainability perspectives. We show that the computational underpinning of a sustainability index defines what type of sustainability the index is capable of measuring, while also providing alternative forms. We then provide a brief example of how these different sustainability perspectives can radically alter measured sustainability. We end with a call for sustainability researchers to be conscious of the values underlying index formation, deliberate in index selection, and explicit in result presentation, so that the scientific and stakeholder communities are better informed of sustainability assessments.

KW - strong sustainability

KW - Sustainability indicators

KW - weak sustainability

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84958035416&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84958035416&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1080/13504509.2015.1136360

DO - 10.1080/13504509.2015.1136360

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84958035416

SP - 1

EP - 8

JO - International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology

JF - International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology

SN - 1350-4509

ER -