In order to evaluate the sustainability of a system, an optimal account should include time, scale, and domain; a measure of sustainability should represent changes in the system that are relevant in the long-term—counted in decades and at least half century (as this is a time scale of two generations). It should reflect developments within the system and trade-offs to systems on other scaled levels. Similar to the ideas stated by Kinderyte' (2010), quantitative indicators prove useful in communicating the urgency of key issues in participatory settings. However, duplicate information can often cause confusion and frustration when the goal of information extends beyond raising awareness to include the development of policy options for improvements. For this reason, Grosskurth and Rotmans (2007) propose that if sustainable development is interpreted as a balanced long-term development of a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) sustainability process, then development of one part of the system toward a desirable state should not occur structurally at the cost of developments elsewhere in the system as this would compromise its continuity and functionality.
INDICES: AGGREGATION OF INDICATORS
Aggregated indicators use indices to model varying forms of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. It is clear that social progress, production, and consumption are important for human well-being. It has been found that scoring systems, including aspects of TBL practices, have problems in which choice of components and assigned weight are subjective and aggregation of different dimensions often not meaningful (Foliente et al., 2007). Observation is important and more criticism can be directed against the construction of sustainability indicators, for example within communities that have safeguards against environmental, social, and economic aspects of human activities. Hueting and Reijnders (2004) point out three problematic notions for the development of indicators:
The requirement of a positive relation between proposed constitutive elements of the indicator and environmental sustainability, understood as a sustainable production level;
Its construction of sustainability indicators on the basis of world views, that is, the United Nations system of national accounts (UNSNA) versus the TBL three-pillar approach (UNSD, 2014); and
Conflicting goals, which relate to our physical environment and the notion of inevitable sacrifice of either sustainability or production level.
Moreover, the use of sustainability indicators for measuring sustainability unlocks the notion of industry indicators and poses another challenge of where this field is going and how it may be used to integrate trends and records for policy development and decision making. The Center has a strong research background in developing indices based on the index of sustainable functionality (ISF) and historical records at all levels. The ISF is a multi-criteria example in which the Center has been trying to integrate quantitative with qualitative datasets. The Center has primarily focused on past and present indices and has been moving toward future-based modelling developments.
Foliente, G., Kearns, A., Maheepala, S., Bai, X., and Barnett, G. (2007). "Beyond Triple Bottom Line – Sustainable Cities: CSIRO", In State of Australian Cities National Conference (SOAC2007). Adelaide, Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
Grosskurth, J., and Rotmans, J. (2007). Sustainability Indicators: A Scientific Assessment. Hàk, T., Moldan, B., and Dahl, A. L. (Eds.). Washington, D.C.: Island Press.
Hueting, R., and Reijnders, L. (2004). "Broad sustainability contra sustainability: The proper construction of sustainability indicators", Ecological Economics, 50(3-4): 249-260.
Kinderyte', L. (2010). "Methodology of Sustainability Indicators Determination for Enterprise Assessment", Environmental Research, Engineering and Management, 52(2): 25-31.