Sustainability metrics and indices

Sustainable metrics and indices are measures of sustainability, and attempt to quantify beyond the generic concept. Though there are disagreements among those from different disciplines (and influenced by different political beliefs about the nature of the good society), these disciplines and international organizations have each offered measures or indicators of how to measure the concept.

While sustainability indicators, indices and reporting systems gained growing popularity in both the public and private sectors, their effectiveness in influencing actual policy and practices often remains limited.

Metrics and indices

Various ways of operationalizing or measuring sustainability have been developed. During the last 10 years there has been an expansion of interest in SDI systems, both in industrialized and, albeit to a lesser extent, in developing countries. SDIs are seen as useful in a wide range of settings, by a wide range of actors: international and intergovernmental bodies; national governments and government departments; economic sectors; administrators of geographic or ecological regions; communities; nongovernmental organizations; and the private sector.

SDI processes are underpinned and driven by the increasing need for improved quality and regularly produced information with better spatial and temporal resolution. Accompanying this need is the requirement, brought in part by the information revolution, to better differentiate between information that matters in any given policy context versus information that is of secondary importance or irrelevant.

A large and still growing number of attempts to create aggregate measures of various aspects of sustainability created a stable of indices that provide a more nuanced perspective on development than economic aggregates such as GDP. Some of the most prominent of these include the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the Ecological footprint of Global Footprint Network and its partner organizations; the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) and the pilot Environmental Performance Index (EPI) reported under the World Economic Forum (WEF); or the Genuine Progress Index (GPI) calculated at the national or sub-national level. Parallel to these initiatives, political interest in producing a green GDP that would take at least the cost of pollution and natural capital depletion into account has grown, even if implementation is held back by the reluctance of policymakers and statistical services arising mostly from a concern about conceptual and technical challenges.

At the heart of the debate over different indicators are not only different disciplinary approaches but also different views of development. Some indicators reflect the ideology of globalization and urbanization that seek to define and measure progress on whether different countries or cultures agree to accept industrial technologies in their eco-systems.[1] Other approaches, like those that start from international treaties on cultural rights of indigenous peoples to maintain traditional cultures, measure the ability of those cultures to maintain their traditions within their eco-systems at whatever level of productivity they choose.

The Lempert-Nguyen indicator, devised in 2008 for practitioners, starts with the standards for sustainable development that have been agreed upon by the international community and then looks at whether intergovernmental organizations such as the UNDP and other development actors are applying these principles in their projects and work as a whole.[2]

In using sustainability indicators, it is important to distinguish between three types of sustainability that are often mentioned in international development:

  • Sustainability of a culture (human system) within its resources and environment;
  • Sustainability of a specific stream of benefits or productivity (usually just an economic measure); and
  • Sustainability of a particular institution or project without additional assistance (institutionalization of an input).

The following list is not exhaustive but contains the major points of view:

"Daly Rules" approach

University of Maryland School of Public Policy professor and former Chief Economist for the World Bank Herman E. Daly (working from theory initially developed by Romanian economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen and laid out in his 1971 opus "The Entropy Law and the Economic Process") suggests the following three operational rules defining the condition of ecological (thermodynamic) sustainability:

  1. Renewable resources such as fish, soil, and groundwater must be used no faster than the rate at which they regenerate.
  2. Nonrenewable resources such as minerals and fossil fuels must be used no faster than renewable substitutes for them can be put into place.
  3. Pollution and wastes must be emitted no faster than natural systems can absorb them, recycle them, or render them harmless.

Some commentators have argued that the "Daly Rules", being based on ecological theory and the Laws of Thermodynamics, should perhaps be considered implicit or foundational for the many other systems that are advocated, and are thus the most straightforward system for operationalization of the Bruntland Definition. In this view, the Bruntland Definition and the Daly Rules can be seen as complementary—Bruntland provides the ethical goal of non-depletion of natural capital, Daly details parsimoniously how this ethic is operationalized in physical terms. The system is rationally complete, and in agreement with physical laws. Other definitions may thus be superfluous, or mere glosses on the immutable thermodynamic reality.[3]

There are numerous other definitions and systems of operationalization for sustainability, and there has been competition for influence between them, with the unfortunate result that, in the minds of some observers at least, sustainability has no agreed-upon definition.

Natural Step approach

Following the Brundtland Commission's report, one of the first initiatives to bring scientific principles to the assessment of sustainability was by Swedish cancer scientist Karl-Henrik Robèrt. Robèrt coordinated a consensus process to define and operationalize sustainability. At the core of the process lies a consensus on what Robèrt came to call the natural step framework. The framework is based on a definition of sustainability, described as the system conditions of sustainability (as derived from System theory). In the natural step framework, a sustainable society does not systematically increase concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust, or substances produced by society; that does not degrade the environment and in which people have the capacity to meet their needs worldwide.[4]

Ecological footprint approach

Ecological footprint accounting, based on the biological concept of carrying capacity, tracks the amount of land and water area a human population, needed to produce the resources the population consumes and to absorb its waste, under prevailing technology. This amount then is compared to available biocapacity, in the world or in that region. The biocapacity represents the area able to regenerate resources and assimilate waste. Global Footprint Network publishes every year results for all nations captured in UN statistics.

The algorithms of ecological footprint accounts have been used in combination with the emergy methodology (S. Zhao, Z. Li and W. Li 2005), and a sustainability index has been derived from the latter. They have also been combined with a measure of quality of life, for instance through the "Happy Planet Index" (HPI) calculated for 178 nations (Marks et al., 2006). The Happy Planet Index calculates how many happy life years each country is able to generate per global hectare of ecological footprint.

One of the striking conclusions to emerge from ecological footprint accounting is that it would be necessary to have 4 or 5 back-up planets engaged in nothing but agriculture for all those alive today to live a western lifestyle.[5] The Footprint analysis is closely related to the I = PAT equation that, itself, can be considered a metric.

Anthropological-cultural approach

Though sustainable development has become a concept that biologists and ecologists have measured from an eco-system point of view and that the business community has measured from a perspective of energy and resource efficiencies and consumption, the discipline of anthropology is itself founded on the concept of sustainability of human groups within ecological systems. At the basis of the definition of culture is whether a human group is able to transmit its values and continue several aspects of that lifestyle for at least three generations. The measurement of culture, by anthropologists, is itself a measure of sustainability and it is also one that has been codified by international agreements and treaties like the Rio Declaration of 1992 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to maintain a cultural group's choice of lifestyles within their lands and ecosystems.

Terralingua, an organization of anthropologists and linguists working to protect biocultural diversity, with a focus on language, has devised a sert of measures with UNESCO for measuring the survivability of languages and cultures in given eco-systems.[6]

The Lempert–Nguyen indicator of sustainable development, developed in 2008 by David Lempert and Hue Nhu Nguyen, is one that incorporates and integrates these cultural principles with international law.[2]

Circles of Sustainability approach

A number of agencies including the UN Global Compact Cities Programme, World Vision and Metropolis have since 2010 begun using the Circles of Sustainability approach that sets up a four-domain framework for choosing appropriate indicators. Rather than designating the indicators that have to be used like most other approaches, it provides a framework to guide decision-making on what indicators are most useful. The framework is arranged around four domains - economics, ecology, politics and culture - which are then subdivided into seven analytically derived sub-domains for each domain. Indicators are linked to each sub-domain. By choosing culture as one of its key domains, the approach takes into account the emphasis of the 'Anthropological' approach (above), but retains a comprehensive sense of sustainability. The approach can be used to map any other sustainability indicator set.[7] This is foundationally different from the Global Reporting Initiative Index (below) which uses a triple-bottom-line organizing framework, and is most relevant to corporate reporting.

Global Reporting Initiative Index

In 1997 the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) was started as a multi-stakeholder process and independent institution whose mission has been "to develop and disseminate globally applicable Sustainability Reporting Guidelines". The GRI uses ecological footprint analysis and became independent in 2002. It is an official collaborating centre of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and during the tenure of Kofi Annan, it cooperated with the UN Secretary-General's Global Compact.

Energy, Emergy and Sustainability Index

In 1956 Dr. Howard T. Odum of the University of Florida coined the term Emergy and devised the accounting system of embodied energy.

In 1997, systems ecologists M.T. Brown and S. Ulgiati published their formulation of a quantitative Sustainability Index (SI) as a ratio of the emergy (spelled with an "m", i.e. "embodied energy", not simply "energy") yield ratio (EYR) to the environmental loading ratio (ELR). Brown and Ulgiati also called the sustainability index the "Emergy Sustainability Index" (ESI), "an index that accounts for yield, renewability, and environmental load. It is the incremental emergy yield compared to the environmental load".[8]

Sustainability Index = Emergy Yield Ratio/Environmental Loading RatioEYR/ELR
  • NOTE: The numerator is called "emergy" and is spelled with an "m". It is an abbreviation of the term, "embodied energy". The numerator is NOT "energy yield ratio", which is a different concept.[9]

Writers like Leone (2005) and Yi et al. have also recently suggested that the emergy sustainability index has significant utility. In particular, Leone notes that while the GRI measures behavior, it fails to calculate supply constraints the emergy methodology aims to calculate.

Environmental Sustainability Index

In 2004, a joint initiative of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP) and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) of Columbia University, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Directorate-General Joint Research Centre (European Commission) also attempted to construct an Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI).[10] This was formally released in Davos, Switzerland, at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on 28 January 2005. The report on this index made a comparison of the WEF ESI to other sustainability indicators such as the Ecological footprint Index. However, there was no mention of the emergy sustainability index.

IISD Sample Policy Framework

In 1996 the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) developed a Sample Policy Framework, which proposed that a sustainability index "...would give decision-makers tools to rate policies and programs against each other" (1996, p. 9). Ravi Jain (2005)[11] argued that, "The ability to analyze different alternatives or to assess progress towards sustainability will then depend on establishing measurable entities or metrics used for sustainability."

Sustainability dashboard

The International Institute for Sustainable Development has produced a "Dashboard of Sustainability", "a free, non-commercial software package that illustrates the complex relationships among economic, social and environmental issues". This is based on Sustainable Development Indicators Prepared for the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development (UN-DSD)DECEMBER 2005.

WBCSD approach

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), founded in 1995, has formulated the business case for sustainable development and argues that "sustainable development is good for business and business is good for sustainable development". This view is also maintained by proponents of the concept of industrial ecology. The theory of industrial ecology declares that industry should be viewed as a series of interlocking man-made ecosystems interfacing with the natural global ecosystem.

According to some economists, it is possible for the concepts of sustainable development and competitiveness to merge if enacted wisely, so that there is not an inevitable trade-off.[12] This merger is motivated by the following six observations (Hargroves & Smith 2005):

  1. Throughout the economy there are widespread untapped potential resource productivity improvements to be made to be coupled with effective design.
  2. There has been a significant shift in understanding over the last three decades of what creates lasting competitiveness of a firm.
  3. There is now a critical mass of enabling technologies in eco-innovations that make integrated approaches to sustainable development economically viable.
  4. Since many of the costs of what economists call ‘environmental externalities’ are passed on to governments, in the long-term sustainable development strategies can provide multiple benefits to the tax payer.
  5. There is a growing understanding of the multiple benefits of valuing social and natural capital, for both moral and economic reasons, and including them in measures of national well-being.
  6. There is mounting evidence to show that a transition to a sustainable economy, if done wisely, may not harm economic growth significantly, in fact it could even help it. Recent research by ex-Wuppertal Institute member Joachim Spangenberg, working with neo-classical economists, shows that the transition, if focused on improving resource productivity, leads to higher economic growth than business as usual, while at the same time reducing pressures on the environment and enhancing employment.
Life-cycle assessment

Life-cycle assessment is a "composite measure of sustainability."[13] It analyses the environmental performance of products and services through all phases of their life cycle: extracting and processing raw materials; manufacturing, transportation and distribution; use, re-use, maintenance; recycling, and final disposal.

Sustainable enterprise approach

Building on the work of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, businesses began to see the needs of environmental and social systems as opportunities for business development and contribution to stakeholder value. This approach has manifested itself in three key areas of strategic intent: 'sustainable innovation', human development, and 'bottom of the pyramid' business strategies. Now, as businesses have begun the shift toward sustainable enterprise, many business schools are leading the research and education of the next generation of business leaders. Companies have introduced key development indicators to set targets and track progress on sustainable development. Some key players are:

Sustainable livelihoods approach

Another application of the term sustainability has been in the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach, developed from conceptual work by Amartya Sen, and the UK's Institute for Development Studies http://www.ids.ac.uk. This was championed by the UK's Department for International Development(DFID), UNDP, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as well as NGOs such as CARE, OXFAM and the African Institute for Community-Driven Development, Khanya-aicdd http://www.khanya-aicdd.org. Key concepts include the Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) Framework, a holistic way of understanding livelihoods, the SL principles, as well as six governance issues developed by Khanya-aicdd.[14] A wide range of information resources on Sustainable Livelihoods Approaches can be found at Livelihoods Connect http://www.livelihoods.org

Some analysts view this measure with caution because they believe that it has a tendency to take one part of the footprint analysis and I = PAT equation (productivity) and to focus on the sustainability of economic returns to an economic sector rather than on the sustainability of the entire population or culture.

FAO types of sustainability

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has identified considerations for technical cooperation that affect three types of sustainability:

  • Institutional sustainability. Can a strengthened institutional structure continue to deliver the results of technical cooperation to end users? The results may not be sustainable if, for example, the planning authority that depends on the technical cooperation loses access to top management, or is not provided with adequate resources after the technical cooperation ends. Institutional sustainability can also be linked to the concept of social sustainability, which asks how the interventions can be sustained by social structures and institutions;
  • Economic and financial sustainability. Can the results of technical cooperation continue to yield an economic benefit after the technical cooperation is withdrawn? For example, the benefits from the introduction of new crops may not be sustained if the constraints to marketing the crops are not resolved. Similarly, economic, as distinct from financial, sustainability may be at risk if the end users continue to depend on heavily subsidized activities and inputs.
  • Ecological sustainability. Are the benefits to be generated by the technical cooperation likely to lead to a deterioration in the physical environment, thus indirectly contributing to a fall in production, or well-being of the groups targeted and their society?

Some ecologists have emphasised a fourth type of sustainability:

  • Energetic sustainability. This type of sustainability is often concerned with the production of energy and mineral resources. Some researchers have pointed to trends they say document the limits of production. See Hubbert peak for example.
"Development sustainability" approaches

Sustainability is relevant to international development projects. One definition of development sustainability is "the continuation of benefits after major assistance from the donor has been completed" (Australian Agency for International Development 2000). Ensuring that development projects are sustainable can reduce the likelihood of them collapsing after they have just finished; it also reduces the financial cost of development projects and the subsequent social problems, such as dependence of the stakeholders on external donors and their resources. All development assistance, apart from temporary emergency and humanitarian relief efforts, should be designed and implemented with the aim of achieving sustainable benefits. There are ten key factors that influence development sustainability.

  1. Participation and ownership. Get the stakeholders (men and women) to genuinely participate in design and implementation. Build on their initiatives and demands. Get them to monitor the project and periodically evaluate it for results.
  2. Capacity building and training. Training stakeholders to take over should begin from the start of any project and continue throughout. The right approach should both motivate and transfer skills to people.
  3. Government policies. Development projects should be aligned with local government policies.
  4. Financial. In some countries and sectors, financial sustainability is difficult in the medium term. Training in local fundraising is a possibility, as is identifying links with the private sector, charging for use, and encouraging policy reforms.
  5. Management and organization. Activities that integrate with or add to local structures may have better prospects for sustainability than those that establish new or parallel structures.
  6. Social, gender and culture. The introduction of new ideas, technologies and skills requires an understanding of local decision-making systems, gender divisions and cultural preferences.
  7. Technology. All outside equipment must be selected with careful consideration given to the local finance available for maintenance and replacement. Cultural acceptability and the local capacity to maintain equipment and buy spare parts are vital.
  8. Environment. Poor rural communities that depend on natural resources should be involved in identifying and managing environmental risks. Urban communities should identify and manage waste disposal and pollution risks.
  9. External political and economic factors. In a weak economy, projects should not be too complicated, ambitious or expensive.
  10. Realistic duration. A short project may be inadequate for solving entrenched problems in a sustainable way, particularly when behavioural and institutional changes are intended. A long project, may on the other hand, promote dependence.

The definition of sustainability as "the continuation of benefits after major assistance from the donor has been completed" (Australian Agency for International Development 2000) is echoed by other definitions (World Bank, USAID). The concept has however evolved as it has become of interest to non grant-making institutions. Sustainability in development refers to processes and relative increases in local capacity and performance while foreign assistance decreases or shifts (not necessarily disappears). The objective of sustainable development is open to various interpretations.[15]

See also
References
  1. Boulanger, P. M. (2008) "Sustainable development indicators: a scientific challenge, a democratic issue". S.A.P.I.EN.S. 1 (1)
  2. Lempert, David; Nguyen, Hue Nhu (2008). "A sustainable development indicator for NGOs and international organisations". International Journal of Sustainable Society. 1 (1): 44–54. doi:10.1504/IJSSoc.2008.020376. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  3. Womersley, Michael: A Peculiarly American Green: Religion and Environmental Policy in the United States, 2002, Dissertation, University of Maryland School of Public Policy. pg.19-21
  4. TNS Canada System Conditions. Retrieved on: 20078-07-15.
  5. Global Footprint Atlas 2008, Global Footprint Network, 2008.
  6. [1]
  7. Paul James and Andy Scerri, ‘Auditing Cities through Circles of Sustainability’, Mark Amen, Noah J. Toly, Patricia L. Carney and Klaus Segbers, eds, Cities and Global Governance, Ashgate, Farnham, 2011, pp. 111–36. Andy Scerri and Paul James, ‘Communities of Citizens and “Indicators” of Sustainability’, Community Development Journal, vol. 45, no. 2, 2010, pp. 219–36. Andy Scerri and Paul James, ‘Accounting for Sustainability: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Research in Developing ‘Indicators’ of Sustainability’, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, vol. 13, no. 1, 2010, pp. 41–53.
  8. Brown, M.T. and S. Ulgiati.1999. Emergy evaluation of natural capital and biosphere services. AMBIO. Vol.28 No.6, September 1999.
  9. Ulgiati, S. and M.T. Brown. 1999. Emergy accounting of human-dominated, large scale ecosystems. In Jorgensen and Kay (eds.) Thermodynamics and Ecology. Elsevier.
  10. Environmental Sustainability Index (2005) Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy Yale University, New Haven and Yale University Center for International Earth Science Information Network Columbia University
  11. Jain, Ravi; Sustainability: metrics, specific indicators and preference index, Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy (Journal), May 2005, pg. 71-72
  12. Esty, D. C., Porter, M. E., Industrial Ecology and Competitiveness: Strategic Implications for the Firm, Journal of Industrial Ecology Winter 1998, Vol. 2, No. 1: 35-43.
  13. "Measures of sustainability". Canadian Architect. Retrieved on: June 30, 2007.
  14. Khanya-aicdd
  15. Vivien, F. D. (2008) "Sustainable development: An overview of economic proposals". S.A.P.I.EN.S. 1 (2)
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Sustainability metrics and indices

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Sustainability metrics and indices

Sustainable metrics and indices are measures of sustainability, and attempt to quantify beyond the generic concept. Though there are disagreements among those from different disciplines (and influenced by different political beliefs about the nature of the good society), these disciplines and international organizations have each offered measures or indicators of how to measure the concept. While sustainability indicators, indices and reporting systems gained growing popularity in both the public and private sectors, their effectiveness in influencing actual policy and practices often remains limited. Metrics and indices Various ways of operationalizing or measuring sustainability have been developed. During the last 10 years there has been an expansion of interest in SDI systems, both in industrialized and, albeit to a lesser extent, in developing countries. SDIs are seen as useful in a wide range of settings, by a wide range of actors: international and intergovernmental bodies; national governments and ...more...

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Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare

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Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare

The Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) is an economic indicator intended to replace the Gross Domestic Product, which is the main macroeconomic indicator of System of National Accounts (SNA). Rather than simply adding together all expenditures like the gross domestic product, consumer expenditure is balanced by such factors as income distribution and cost associated with pollution and other unsustainable costs. It is similar to the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). The Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) is roughly defined by the following formula. ISEW = personal consumption+ public non-defensive expenditures- private defensive expenditures+ capital formation+ services from domestic labour- costs of environmental degradation- depreciation of natural capital History GDP is misleading as an indicator or even as a proxy of the welfare of a nation, let alone as a measure of people’s well-being,[1] although the makers of economic policy commonly think to the contrary. This problem already b ...more...

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Kardashev scale

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Kardashev scale

The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring a civilization's level of technological advancement, based on the amount of energy a civilization is able to use for communication,[1] proposed by Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev. The scale has three designated categories: A Type I civilization—also called a planetary civilization—can use and store all of the energy which reaches its planet from its parent star. A Type II civilization—also called a stellar civilization—can harness the total energy of its planet's parent star (the most popular hypothetical concept being the Dyson sphere—a device which would encompass the entire star and transfer its energy to the planet(s)). A Type III civilization—also called a galactic civilization—can control energy on the scale of its entire host galaxy.[2] The scale is hypothetical, and regards energy consumption on a cosmic scale. It was proposed in 1964 by the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev. Various extensions of the scale have since been proposed, includ ...more...

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Environmental Performance Index

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Environmental Performance Index

Countries by Environmental Performance Index (2018) The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a method of quantifying and numerically marking the environmental performance of a state's policies. This index was developed from the Pilot Environmental Performance Index, first published in 2002, and designed to supplement the environmental targets set forth in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.[1] The EPI was preceded by the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), published between 1999 and 2005. Both indices were developed by Yale University (Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy) and Columbia University (Center for International Earth Science Information Network) in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The ESI was developed to evaluate environmental sustainability relative to the paths of other countries. Due to a shift in focus by the teams developing the ESI, the EPI uses outcome-oriented indicators, then working as a ...more...

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World Happiness Report

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World Happiness Report

Map showing happiness of countries by their score according to the 2018 World Happiness Report. The World Happiness Report is an annual publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network which contains rankings of national happiness and analysis of the data from various perspectives.[1] The World Happiness Report is edited by John F. Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs. The 2017 edition added three associate editors; Jan-Emmanuel De Neve,[2] Haifang Huang,[3] and Shun Wang.[4] Authors of chapters include Richard Easterlin, Edward F. Diener, Martine Durand,[5] Nicole Fortin,[6] Jon Hall,[7] Valerie Møller,[8] and many others. In July 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 65/309 Happiness: Towards a Holistic Definition of Development[9] inviting member countries to measure the happiness of their people and to use the data to help guide public policy. On April 2, 2012, this was followed by the first UN High Level Meeting called Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New ...more...

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Sustainability measurement

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Sustainability measurement

Sustainability measurement is the quantitative basis for the informed management of sustainability.[1] The metrics used for the measurement of sustainability (involving the sustainability of environmental, social and economic domains, both individually and in various combinations) are still evolving: they include indicators, benchmarks, audits, indexes and accounting, as well as assessment, appraisal[2] and other reporting systems. They are applied over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.[3][4] Some of the best known and most widely used sustainability measures include corporate sustainability reporting, Triple Bottom Line accounting, and estimates of the quality of sustainability governance for individual countries using the Environmental Sustainability Index and Environmental Performance Index. An alternative approach, used by the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme and explicitly critical of the triple-bottom-line approach is Circles of Sustainability. Sustainability indicators and th ...more...

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Global Reporting Initiative

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Global Reporting Initiative

The Global Reporting Initiative (known as GRI) is an international independent standards organization that helps businesses, governments and other organizations understand and communicate their impacts on issues such as climate change, human rights and corruption. Under increasing pressure from different stakeholder groups – such as governments, consumers and investors – to be more transparent about their environmental, economic and social impacts, many companies publish a sustainability report, also known as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) or environmental, social and governance (ESG) report. GRI’s framework for sustainability reporting helps companies identify, gather and report this information in a clear and comparable manner. First launched in 2000, GRI’s sustainability reporting framework is now widely used[1] by multinational organizations, governments, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), NGOs and industry groups in more than 90 countries.[2] In 2017, 63 percent of the largest 100 companies ( ...more...

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Dow Jones Sustainability Indices

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Dow Jones Sustainability Indices

The Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) launched in 1999, are a family of indices evaluating the sustainability performance of thousands of companies trading publicly and a strategic partner[1] of the S&P Dow Jones Indices. They are the longest-running global sustainability benchmarks worldwide and have become the key reference point in sustainability investing for investors and companies alike.[2] In 2012, S&P Indices and Dow Jones Indexes merged to form S&P Dow Jones Indices.[3] The DJSI is now managed cooperatively by S&P Dow Jones Indices and RobecoSAM (Sustainable Asset Management). The DJSI is based on an analysis of corporate economic, environmental and social performance, assessing issues such as corporate governance, risk management, branding, climate change mitigation, supply chain standards and labor practices. The trend is to reject companies that do not operate in a sustainable and ethical manner. It includes general as well as industry-specific sustainability criteria fo ...more...

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Started in 1999

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Sustainable development

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Sustainable development

Wind powers 5 MW wind turbines on a wind farm 28 km off the coast of Belgium. Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while at the same time sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend. The desired result is a state of society where living conditions and resource use continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural system. Sustainable development can be classified as development that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations While the modern concept of sustainable development is derived mostly from the 1987 Brundtland Report, it is also rooted in earlier ideas about sustainable forest management and twentieth century environmental concerns. As the concept developed, it has shifted to focus more on economic development, social development and environmental protection for future gene ...more...

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Maximum sustainable yield

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Maximum sustainable yield

In population ecology and economics, maximum sustainable yield or MSY is theoretically, the largest yield (or catch) that can be taken from a species' stock over an indefinite period. Fundamental to the notion of sustainable harvest, the concept of MSY aims to maintain the population size at the point of maximum growth rate by harvesting the individuals that would normally be added to the population, allowing the population to continue to be productive indefinitely. Under the assumption of logistic growth, resource limitation does not constrain individuals' reproductive rates when populations are small, but because there are few individuals, the overall yield is small. At intermediate population densities, also represented by half the carrying capacity, individuals are able to breed to their maximum rate. At this point, called the maximum sustainable yield, there is a surplus of individuals that can be harvested because growth of the population is at its maximum point due to the large number of reproducing in ...more...

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Circles of Sustainability

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Circles of Sustainability

A Circles of Sustainability representation - in this case for Melbourne in 2011. Johannesburg Profile, Level 2, 2013 São Paulo Profile, Level 1, 2012 Delhi Profile, Level 1, 2012 Hyderabad Urban Profile, Level 1, 2012 Port Moresby Profile, Level 2, 2013 Tehran Profile, Level 1, 2012 Circles of Sustainability is a method for understanding and assessing sustainability, and for managing projects directed towards socially sustainable outcomes.[1] It is intended to handle 'seemingly intractable problems'[2] such as outlined in sustainable development debates. The method is mostly used for cities and urban settlements. Circles of Sustainability, and its treatment of the social domains of ecology, economics, politics and culture, provides the empirical dimension of an approach called 'engaged theory'. Developing Circles of Sustainability is part of larger project called 'Circles of Social Life', using the same four-domain model to analyze questions of resilience, adaptation, se ...more...

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Higg Index

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Higg Index

The Higg Index is an apparel and footwear industry self-assessment standard for assessing environmental and social sustainability throughout the supply chain. Launched in 2012, it was developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a nonprofit organization founded by a group of fashion companies, the United States government Environmental Protection Agency, and other nonprofit entities. Overview The Higg Index provides a tool for the apparel and footwear industry to assess sustainability throughout a product's entire life cycle, from materials to end-of-life.[1] The metrics created Higg Index are limited to a company's internal use for the evaluation and improvement of environmental performance. Plans for a future version include the creation of a scoring scale designed to communicate a product's sustainability impact to consumers and other stakeholders.[2][3] Version 1.0 Version 1.0 of the Higg Index was made public in July 2012.[4][5] According to the Coalition's Executive Director, Jason Kibbey, the n ...more...

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Fashion

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Sustainability reporting

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Sustainability reporting

A sustainability report is an organizational report that gives information about economic, environmental, social and governance performance.[1] Sustainability reporting is not just report generation from collected data; instead it is a method to internalize and improve an organization’s commitment to sustainable development in a way that can be demonstrated to both internal and external stakeholders. History Corporate sustainability reporting has a history going back to environmental reporting. The first environmental reports were published in the late 1980s by companies in the chemical industry which had serious image problems. The other group of early reporters was a group of committed small and medium-sized businesses with very advanced environmental management systems. Additionally, the tobacco industry adopted such reporting much earlier than the rest of the corporate world, in an attempt to attract new investors at a time when ethical investing was becoming increasingly popular. Non-financial report ...more...

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Social accounting

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Social accounting

Social accounting (also known as social accounting and auditing, social accountability, social and environmental accounting, corporate social reporting, corporate social responsibility reporting, non-financial reporting or accounting) is the process of communicating the social and environmental effects of organizations' economic actions to particular interest groups within society and to society at large.[1] Social accounting is commonly used in the context of business, or corporate social responsibility (CSR), although any organisation, including NGOs, charities, and government agencies may engage in social accounting. Social Accounting can also be used in conjunction with community-based monitoring (CBM). Social accounting emphasises the notion of corporate accountability. D. Crowther defines social accounting in this sense as "an approach to reporting a firm’s activities which stresses the need for the identification of socially relevant behaviour, the determination of those to whom the company is accoun ...more...

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Environmental accounting

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Environmental accounting

Environmental accounting is a subset of accounting proper, its target being to incorporate both economic and environmental information. It can be conducted at the corporate level or at the level of a national economy through the System of Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting, a satellite system to the National Accounts of Countries[1] (among other things, the National Accounts produce the estimates of Gross Domestic Product otherwise known as GDP). Environmental accounting is a field that identifies resource use, measures and communicates costs of a company’s or national economic impact on the environment. Costs include costs to clean up or remediate contaminated sites, environmental fines, penalties and taxes, purchase of pollution prevention technologies and waste management costs. An environmental accounting system consists of environmentally differentiated conventional accounting and ecological accounting. Environmentally differentiated accounting measures effects of the natural environment ...more...

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Happy Planet Index

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Happy Planet Index

Map showing countries shaded by their position in the Happy Planet Index (2006). The highest-ranked countries are bright green; the lowest are brown. Note: Score legend by colour is below. Green: 4000+ Yellow Green: 3500-4000 Yellow: 3000-3500 Dark Yellow: 2500-3000 Orange: 2000-2500 Brown: ...more...

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Sustainable national income

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Sustainable national income

Sustainable national income, (SNI) is an indicator for environmental sustainability, which gives an estimate of the production level at which - with the technology in the year of calculation - environmental functions remain available ‘for ever’. Overview The national income of a country is an estimate of the yearly production of goods and services. The loss of possible uses of the non-human made physical surroundings, named environmental functions, on which humanity is dependent in all its doings remains outside the estimate. Also the present and future production is dependent on these environmental functions. The sustainable national income (SNI) in a given year is an estimate of the production level at which - with the technology in the year of calculation - environmental functions remain available ‘for ever’. The sustainable national income (SNI) in a certain year is defined as: the maximum attainable production level whereby, with the available technology in the year of calculation, vital environment ...more...

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Green gross domestic product

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Green gross domestic product

The green gross domestic product (green GDP or GGDP) is an index of economic growth with the environmental consequences of that growth factored into a country's conventional GDP. Green GDP monetizes the loss of biodiversity, and accounts for costs caused by climate change. Some environmental experts prefer physical indicators (such as "waste per capita" or "carbon dioxide emissions per year"), which may be aggregated to indices such as the "Sustainable Development Index". Calculation Calculating green GDP requires that net natural capital consumption, including resource depletion, environmental degradation, and protective and restorative environmental initiatives, be subtracted from traditional GDP.[1] Some early calculations of green GDP take into account one or two but not all environmental adjustments. These calculations can also be applied to net domestic product (NDP), which deducts the depreciation of produced capital from GDP. In each case, it is necessary to convert the resource activity into a mone ...more...

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Sustainable Process Index

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Sustainable Process Index

The Sustainable Process Index (SPI*) was developed in the 1990s at TU Graz by a team of scientists (substantially by Ch. Krotscheck) under the leadership of professor Michael Narodoslawsky.[1][2] The SPI is a member of the ecological footprint family which aggregates and compares different ecological pressures. It allows to evaluate ecologic impacts of industrial products and services like energy production, industrial products, agriculture and buildings. It provides an encompassing evaluation that distinguishes sharply between fossil and renewable energy (as Global Warming Potential does) but taking other emissions to soil water and atmosphere into account as well. Based on the idea, that the primary income of the earth is Solar radiation, in accordance with the principle of Strong sustainability the surface of the earth is the basic dimension of the evaluation. The SPI is therefore in the same family of ecological measurement as the Ecological Footprint. These methods all measure the area that is necessary ...more...

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Vulnerability index

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Vulnerability index

A vulnerability index is a measure of the exposure of a population to some hazard. Typically, the index is a composite of multiple quantitative indicators that via some formula, delivers a single numerical result. Through such an index "diverse issues can be combined into a standardised framework...making comparisons possible".[1] For instance, indicators from the physical sciences can be combined with social, medical and even psychological variables to evaluate potential complications for disaster planning. The origin of vulnerability indexes as a policy planning tool began with the United Nations Environmental Program. One of the participants in the early task forces has also conducted secondary research documenting the evolution of the analytic tool through various stages.[2] The term and methodology then expanded[3] through medical literature and social work as discussed by Dr. James O'Connell of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless.[4][5] Basic methodology The basic methodology of constructing a vulnera ...more...

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Futurology

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Social Progress Index

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Social Progress Index

2017 Social Progress Index   Very High Social Progress   High Social Progress   Upper Middle Social Progress   Lower Middle Social Progress   Low Social Progress   Very Low Social Progress   Unranked The Social Progress Index (SPI) measures the extent to which countries provide for the social and environmental needs of their citizens. Fifty-four indicators in the areas of basic human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity to progress show the relative performance of nations. The index is published by the nonprofit Social Progress Imperative, and is based on the writings of Amartya Sen, Douglass North, and Joseph Stiglitz.[1] The SPI measures the well-being of a society by observing social and environmental outcomes directly rather than the economic factors. The social and environmental factors include wellness (including health, shelter and sanitation), equality, inclusion, sustainability and personal freedom and safety.[2] Introduction and methodology The index combines three dimensions ...more...

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Political concepts

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Ecological footprint

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Ecological footprint

World map of countries by their raw ecological footprint, relative to the world average biocapacity (2007). National ecological surplus or deficit, measured as a country's biocapacity per person (in global hectares) minus its ecological footprint per person (also in global hectares). Data from 2013.[1]   x ≤ -9   -9 < x ≤ -8   -8 < x ≤ -7   -7 < x ≤ -6   -6 < x ≤ -5   -5 < x ≤ -4   -4 < x ≤ -3   -3 < x ≤ -2   -2 < x ≤ -1   -1 < x < 0   0 ≤ x < 2   2 ≤ x < 4   4 ≤ x < 6   6 ≤ x < 8   8 ≤ x The ecological footprint measures human demand on nature, i.e., the quantity of nature it takes to support people or an economy. It tracks this demand through an ecological accounting system. The accounts contrast the biologically productive area people use for their consumption to the biologically productive area available within a region or the world (biocapacity - the productive area that can regenerate what people demand from nature). In short, it is a measure of human impact on Earth's eco ...more...

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Environmental issues with population

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Sustainable Value

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Sustainable Value

Sustainable value is a way of managing and measuring sustainability performance. The concept was developed by researchers who are working today for Euromed Management School (Marseille/France) and the IZT - Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment (Berlin/Germany). To date Sustainable Value is primarily used to assess corporate sustainability performance. Sustainable value differs from existing approaches by the fact that it is value-based while all other existing approaches to sustainability assessment (such as environmental impact assessments) are burden-based, i.e. they are assessing environmental and social resource use based on the burden that is created. Using the sustainable value approach, economic, environmental and social resources are assessed and aggregated based on their relative value contribution and can be expressed in a monetary unit like euros, dollars or pounds. The concept Sustainable value is based on the notion of opportunity costs. Opportunity costs are used in financi ...more...

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Sustainability accounting

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Sustainability accounting

Sustainability accounting (also known as social accounting, social and environmental accounting, corporate social reporting, corporate social responsibility reporting, or non-financial reporting) was originated about 20 years ago[1] and is considered a subcategory of financial accounting that focuses on the disclosure of non-financial information about a firm's performance to external stakeholders, such as capital holders, creditors, and other authorities. Sustainability accounting represents the activities that have a direct impact on society, environment, and economic performance of an organisation. Sustainability accounting in managerial accounting contrasts with financial accounting in that managerial accounting is used for internal decision making and the creation of new policies that will have an effect on the organisation's performance at economic, ecological, and social (known as the triple bottom line or Triple-P's; People, Planet, Profit) level. Sustainability accounting is often used to generate va ...more...

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Human overpopulation

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Human overpopulation

Graph of human population from 10000 BCE to 2000 CE. It shows exponential rise in world population that has taken place since the eighteenth century. World population v3 Map of population density by country, per square kilometer. (See List of countries by population density.) Areas of high population densities, calculated in 1994 Map of countries and territories by fertility rate (See List of countries and territories by fertility rate.) Human population growth rate in percent, with the variables of births, deaths, immigration, and emigration – 2013 Human overpopulation (or population overshoot) occurs when the ecological footprint of a human population in a specific geographical location exceeds the carrying capacity of the place occupied by that group. Overpopulation can further be viewed, in a long term perspective, as existing if a population cannot be maintained given the rapid depletion of non-renewable resources or given the degradation of the capacity of the environment to give support ...more...

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Globalization issues

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Net economic welfare

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Net economic welfare

Net Economic Welfare is a proposed national income measure that attempts to put a value on the costs of pollution, crime, congestion, and other 'negative' spinoffs, in order to find a better measure of true national income. To date, it has not been widely adopted.[1] Net Economic Welfare also means - Adjusted measure of total national output, including only the consumption and investment items that contribute directly to economic well-being. Calculated as additions to gross national product (GNP), including the value of leisure and the underground economy, and deductions such as environmental damage. It is also known as net economic welfare (NEW) (Samuelson and Nordhaus, 1992).[2] References Perkins, Dwight H., Steven Radelet and David L. Lindauer. 2006. Economics of Development. Sixth Edition. W.W. Norton & Company. New York, London. 864 p. http://unstats.un.org/unsd/environmentgl/gesform.asp?getitem=745 ...more...

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Macroeconomics

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Sustainable Governance Indicators

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Sustainable Governance Indicators

The Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI), first published in spring 2009 and updated in 2011, analyze and compare the need for reform in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, as well as each country's ability to respond to current social and political challenges. The project is designed to create a comprehensive data pool on government-related activities in the countries considered the world's most developed free-market democracies. In addition, it uses international comparisons to provide evidence-based input for reform-related public discourse taking place in these countries. The SGI are updated every two or three years.[1] Behind the project The Bertelsmann Foundation is an operational think tank that encourages social change and aims to foster sustainability by identifying nascent challenges early on and by developing strategies to face these issues.[2] Method Three scholars with established country expertise are involved in the analysis of each OECD state ...more...

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Sustainable Society Index

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Sustainable Society Index

The Sustainable Society Index (SSI) shows the level of sustainability of each of 151 assessed countries. It shows in a simple way the distance to full sustainability for each of the 24 indicators that build up the SSI.[1] The SSI is used for monitoring the progress of a country on its way to sustainability, for setting priorities with respect to sustainability, to make comparisons between countries, for education purposes, and for further research and development. Development The framework of the SSI, redesigned after a thorough evaluation The SSI was developed by Sustainable Society Foundation to provide the public at large, as well as politicians and authorities, with a transparent and easy tool to measure how sustainable a society is. The SSI is based on the Brundtland definition, and incorporates 24 indicators. These can be sorted into 8 categories, the 3 wellbeing dimensions, and finally into an overall index. Three Wellbeing Dimensions The Sustainable Society Index is one of the very few indic ...more...

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Economics of sustainability

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Genuine progress indicator

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Genuine progress indicator

Genuine progress indicator (GPI) is a metric that has been suggested to replace, or supplement, gross domestic product (GDP). The GPI is designed to take fuller account of the well-being of a nation, only a part of which pertains to the size of the nation's economy, by incorporating environmental and social factors which are not measured by GDP. For instance, some models of GPI decrease in value when the poverty rate increases.[1] The GPI separates the concept of societal progress from economic growth. The GPI is used in ecological economics, "green" economics, sustainability and more inclusive types of economics. It factors in environmental and carbon footprints that businesses produce or eliminate, including in the forms of resource depletion, pollution and long-term environmental damage.[1] GDP is increased twice when pollution is created, since it increases once upon creation (as a side-effect of some valuable process) and again when the pollution is cleaned up; in contrast, GPI counts the initial pollut ...more...

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Environmental economics

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Sustainable tourism

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Sustainable tourism

Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy.[1] Tourism can involve primary transportation to the general location, local transportation, accommodations, entertainment, recreation, nourishment and shopping. It can be related to travel for leisure, business and what is called VFR (visiting friends and relatives).[2] There is now broad consensus that tourism development should be sustainable; however, the question of how to achieve this remains an object of debate.[3] Without travel there is no tourism, so the concept of sustainable tourism is tightly linked to a concept of sustainable mobility.[4] Two relevant considerations are tourism's reliance on fossil fuels and tourism's effect on climate change. 72 percent of tourism's CO emissions come from transportation, 24 percent from accommodations, and 4 percent from local activities.[2] Aviation accounts for 55% of those transportation CO emissions (or 40% of t ...more...

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Environmental economics

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Social sustainability

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Social sustainability

Venn diagram of sustainable development: at the confluence of three constituent parts[1] The four domains of social sustainability according to the Circles of Sustainability approach used by the United Nations[2] Social life is the least defined and least understood of the different ways of approaching sustainability and sustainable development. Social sustainability has had considerably less attention in public dialogue than economic and environmental sustainability. There are several approaches to sustainability. The first, which posits a triad of environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, and social sustainability, is the most widely accepted as a model for addressing sustainability. The concept of "social sustainability" in this approach encompasses such topics as: social equity, livability, health equity, community development, social capital, social support, human rights, labour rights, placemaking, social responsibility, social justice, cultural competence, community resilience, ...more...

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Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index

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Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index

Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index is a program of the University of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative. The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, or ND-GAIN, ranks the climate adaptation performance for 177 countries over the last 17 years.[1] One of ND-GAIN’s goals is to assist decision-makers in the public and private sectors to gain a better understanding of the climate adaptation. Metrics can help decision makers identify and prioritize adaptation measures to allocate investment most effectively and build resilience to climate change.[2] Standard and Poor used a composite of three variables, including ND-GAIN “to capture facets of potential vulnerability to arrive at a ranking” of 116 sovereigns for their report “Climate Change Is A Global Mega-Trend For Sovereign Risk.[3]" The ND-GAIN Country Profiles provide all of the data and their sources, organized by specific vulnerability and readiness measures such as water availability, food security and education level.[4] According to ND-GAIN as of 20 ...more...

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Risk analysis

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Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol

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Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol is a tool that promotes and guides more sustainable hydropower projects. It is a methodology used to measure the performance of a hydropower project across more than twenty environmental, social, technical and economic topics. Hydropower projects can have both a positive and a negative environmental and social impact. This is because the construction of a dam, power plant and reservoir creates certain social and physical changes in the area it effects. The protocol provides a common language to allow governments, civil society, financial institutions and the hydropower sector to talk about and evaluate sustainability issues. Assessments are based on objective evidence and the results are presented in a standardised way, to show how new projects are being developed or how existing facilities are performing. It has been designed to work on projects and facilities anywhere in the world.[1][2] Application Purpose The Protocol is used by different hydropower s ...more...

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Sustainable development

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Gross National Well-being

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Gross National Well-being

Gross National Wellness (GNW) is a socioeconomic development and measurement framework. The GNW / GNH Index consists of 7 dimensions: economic, environmental, physical, mental, work, social, and political. Most wellness areas include both subjective results (via survey) and objective data.[1] Disambiguation The GNW Index is not to be confused with Bhutan's GNH Index, while the GNW paper proposes the first GNH Index as a solution to help with the implementation of the Gross National Happiness philosophy that was introduced by the former King of Bhutan in 1972. Both econometric frameworks are different in authorship, creation dates, and geographic scope. The GNW / GNH index is a global development measurement framework published in 2005 by the International Institute of Management in the US. It is a secular econometric model that tracks 7 development areas with no religious measurement components.[2][3][4] On the other hand, Bhutan's GNH Index is a local development framework and measurement index, publishe ...more...

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Resource productivity

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Resource productivity

Resource productivity is the quantity of good or service (outcome) that is obtained through the expenditure of unit resource.[1][2][3] This can be expressed in monetary terms as the monetary yield per unit resource. For example, when applied to crop irrigation it is the yield of crop obtained through use of a given volume of irrigation water, the “crop per drop”, which could also be expressed as monetary return from product per use of unit irrigation water. Resource productivity and resource intensity are key concepts used in sustainability measurement as they attempt to decouple the direct connection between resource use and environmental degradation. Their strength is that they can be used as a metric for both economic and environmental cost. Although these concepts are two sides of the same coin, in practice they involve very different approaches and can be viewed as reflecting, on the one hand, the efficiency of resource production as outcome per unit of resource use (resource productivity) and, on the ...more...

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Environmental economics

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Water conservation

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Water conservation

United States 1960 postal stamp advocating water conservation. Water conservation includes all the policies, strategies and activities to sustainably manage the natural resource of fresh water, to protect the hydrosphere, and to meet the current and future human demand. Population, household size, and growth and affluence all affect how much water is used. Factors such as climate change have increased pressures on natural water resources especially in manufacturing and agricultural irrigation.[1] Many US cities have already implemented policies aimed at water conservation, with much success.[2] The goals of water conservation efforts include: Ensuring availability of water for future generations where the withdrawal of freshwater from an ecosystem does not exceed its natural replacement rate. Energy conservation as water pumping, delivery and wastewater treatment facilities consume a significant amount of energy. In some regions of the world over 15% of total electricity consumption is devoted to water ...more...

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Sustainable environmental design

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Sustainability studies

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Sustainability studies

Sustainability studies focus on the interdisciplinary perspective of the sustainability concept. Programs include instruction in sustainable development, geography, environmental policies, ethics, ecology, landscape architecture, city and regional planning, economics, natural resources, sociology, and anthropology.[1] Sustainability studies also focuses on the importance of climate change, poverty and development. [2] Studies in Sustainability are now available in many different universities across America. The main goal of sustainability studies is for students to find ways to develop creative solutions to the crisis in environmental sustainability. [3] See also List of environmental degrees References Detail for CIP Code 30.3301, Title: Sustainability Studies.. Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. Accessed 05.10.2011 "Compar ...more...

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Academic disciplines

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Context-Based Sustainability

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Context-Based Sustainability

Context-Based Sustainability (CBS) is a performance accounting method that measures and reports the impacts of organizations (and other human social systems) against norms, standards or thresholds for what they (the impacts) would have to be in order to be sustainable.[1][2][3] As such, CBS is a performance accounting system that views and interprets performance through a sustainability lens, according to which impacts are sustainable if and only if, when generalized to a broader population, they have the effect of contributing to the maintenance of vital capital resources in the world at levels required to ensure human well-being. Impacts that have the opposite effect are unsustainable, just as the activities that produce them are. The reference to context in CBS pertains to social, economic and environmental circumstances that give rise to corresponding organization-specific standards of performance – sustainability standards of performance. Such circumstances most importantly include: (1) the actual socia ...more...

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Resource intensity

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Resource intensity

Resource intensity is a measure of the resources (e.g. water, energy, materials) needed for the production, processing and disposal of a unit of good or service, or for the completion of a process or activity; it is therefore a measure of the efficiency of resource use. It is often expressed as the quantity of resource embodied in unit cost e.g. litres of water per $1 spent on product. In national economic and sustainability accounting it can be calculated as units of resource expended per unit of GDP. When applied to a single person it is expressed as the resource use of that person per unit of consumption. Relatively high resource intensities indicate a high price or environmental cost of converting resource into GDP; low resource intensity indicates a lower price or environmental cost of converting resource into GDP.[1] Resource productivity and resource intensity are key concepts used in sustainability measurement as they measure attempts to decouple the connection between resource use and environmental ...more...

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Environmental economics

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Global catastrophic risk

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Global catastrophic risk

Artist's impression of a major asteroid impact. An asteroid with an impact strength of a billion atomic bombs may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.[1] A global catastrophic risk is a hypothetical future event which could damage human well-being on a global scale,[2] even crippling or destroying modern civilization.[3] An event that could cause human extinction or permanently and drastically curtail humanity's potential is known as an existential risk.[4] Potential global catastrophic risks include anthropogenic risks (technology, governance, climate change) and natural or external risks.[3] Examples of technology risks are hostile artificial intelligence and destructive biotechnology or nanotechnology. Insufficient or malign global governance creates risks in the social and political domain, such as a global war, including nuclear holocaust, bioterrorism using genetically modified organisms, cyberterrorism destroying critical infrastructure like the electrical grid; or the failure to manage a na ...more...

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Teleology

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UL (safety organization)

topic

UL (safety organization)

UL is a global safety consulting and certification company headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois. It maintains offices in 46 countries. Established in 1894 as the Underwriters' Electrical Bureau (a bureau of the National Board of Fire Underwriters),[1] it was known throughout the 20th century as Underwriters Laboratories and participated in the safety analysis of many of that century's new technologies.[2] UL is one of several companies approved to perform safety testing by the U.S. federal agency Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).[3] OSHA maintains a list of approved testing laboratories, which are known as Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories.[4] History UL headquarters in Northbrook, Illinois Underwriters Laboratories Inc. was founded in 1894 by William Henry Merrill.[2] Early in his career as an electrical engineer in Boston, a 25-year-old Merrill was sent to investigate the World Fair's Palace of Electricity. Upon seeing a growing potential in his field, Merrill stayed in ...more...

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Started in 1894 in the United States

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ISO 14000

topic

ISO 14000

ISO 14000 is a family of standards related to environmental management that exists to help organizations (a) minimize how their operations (processes, etc.) negatively affect the environment (i.e. cause adverse changes to air, water, or land); (b) comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmentally oriented requirements; and (c) continually improve in the above. ISO 14000 is similar to ISO 9000 quality management in that both pertain to the process of how a product is produced, rather than to the product itself. As with ISO 9001, certification is performed by third-party organizations rather than being awarded by ISO directly. The ISO 19011 and ISO 17021 audit standards apply when audits are being performed. The requirements of ISO 14001 are an integral part of the European Union's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). EMAS's structure and material are more demanding, mainly concerning performance improvement, legal compliance, and reporting duties.[1] The current version of ISO 14001 is I ...more...

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ISO standards

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Environmental impact assessment

topic

Environmental impact assessment

Environmental assessment (EA) is the assessment of the environmental consequences (positive and negative) of a plan, policy, program, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action. In this context, the term "environmental impact assessment" (EIA) is usually used when applied to actual projects by individuals or companies and the term "strategic environmental assessment" (SEA) applies to policies, plans and programmes most often proposed by organs of state.[1][2] Environmental assessments may be governed by rules of administrative procedure regarding public participation and documentation of decision making, and may be subject to judicial review. The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision makers consider the environmental impacts when deciding whether or not to proceed with a project. The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as "the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the bi ...more...

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Environmental social science concepts

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International Organization for Standardization

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International Organization for Standardization

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. Founded on 23 February 1947, the organization promotes worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial standards. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland,[3] and works in 162 countries.[1] It was one of the first organizations granted general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Overview The International Organization for Standardization is an independent, non-governmental organization, the members of which are the standards organizations of the 168[1] member countries. It is the world's largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates world trade by providing common standards between nations. Over twenty thousand standards have been set covering everything from manufactured products and technology to food safety, agriculture and healthcare.[3] Use of the standards aids in ...more...

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Organizations with general consultative status ...

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Organization Development

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BREEAM

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BREEAM

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method), first published by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in 1990,[1] is the world's longest established method of assessing, rating, and certifying the sustainability of buildings. More than 250,000 buildings have been BREEAM-certified and over a million are registered for certification – in more than 50 countries worldwide. BREEAM also has a tool which focuses on neighborhood development. Purpose BREEAM is an assessment using scientifically based Sustainability metrics and indices that covers a range of environmental issues. Its categories evaluate energy and water use, health and wellbeing, pollution, transport, materials, waste, ecology and management processes. Buildings are rated and certified on a scale of 'Pass', 'Good', 'Very Good', 'Excellent' and 'Outstanding'. It is carried out by independent, licensed assessors. It works to raise awareness amongst owners, occupiers and designers of the benefits of taking a sustainabil ...more...

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Low-energy building in the United Kingdom

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Measurable economic welfare

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Measurable economic welfare

Measure of economic welfare (MEW) is a method to measure the living standards. Formula MEW = value of GDP + value of leisure time + value of unpaid work - value of environmental damage. History In 1972, William Nordhaus and James Tobin developed Measure of economic welfare (MEW).This adjusts GDP by adding leisure, unpaid housework and the value of services given by consumer durables over the year. Deductions are made for 'regrattables' such as expenditure on commuting to work, defence,the police, negative externalities including pollution, and expenditure on consumer durables. This is an interesting approach which seeks to cover more of the aspects which affect economic welfare although it has its own share of problems of having to attach a monetary value to non-marketed products. ...more...

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Socioeconomics

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SGS S.A.

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SGS S.A.

SGS (formerly Société Générale de Surveillance (French for General Society of Surveillance)) is a multinational company headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland which provides inspection, verification, testing and certification services. It has more than 95,000 employees and operates over 2,400 offices and laboratories worldwide.[1] It ranked on Forbes Global 2000 in 2015[2], 2016 [3] and 2017[4]. The core services offered by SGS include the inspection and verification of the quantity, weight and quality of traded goods, the testing of product quality and performance against various health, safety and regulatory standards, and to make sure that products, systems or services meet the requirements of standards set by governments, standardization bodies or by SGS customers.[a] History International traders in London, including those from France, Germany and the Netherlands, the Baltic, Hungary, the Mediterranean and the United States, founded the London Corn Trade Association in 1878 in order to standardize shipp ...more...

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Product certification

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Cement-bonded wood fiber

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Cement-bonded wood fiber

Cement-bonded wood fiber is a composite material manufactured throughout the world. It is made from wood (usually waste wood), chipped into a specially graded aggregate that is then mineralized and combined with portland cement. Uses Cement-bonded wood fiber is used to manufacture a wide variety of products primarily for the construction industry (products like insulating concrete forms, siding materials and noise barriers). Cement bonded wood fiber materials can be classified as low density, medium density and high density. The density of the material will determine to a large extent, the various properties of the end product. Other factors determining the overall performance of a cement bonded wood fiber material are: Wood particle type Wood particle gradation cement to wood ratio Level of sugar content in the wood particle at the time of bonding Most common is low-density cement bonded wood fiber. It is known for its use in LEED-certified projects and other types of green building. The material i ...more...

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Sustainable architecture

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Anthropocene

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Anthropocene

The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth's geology and ecosystems,including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change.[1][2][3] [4][5] As of August 2016, neither the International Commission on Stratigraphy nor the International Union of Geological Sciences has yet officially approved the term as a recognized subdivision of geological time,[3][6][7] although the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS) of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), voted to proceed towards a formal golden spike (GSSP) proposal to define the Anthropocene epoch in the Geologic Time Scale and presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress on 29 August 2016.[8] Various different start dates for the Anthropocene have been proposed, ranging from the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution 12–15,000 years ago, to as recent as the Trinity test in 1945. As of February 2018, the ratifi ...more...

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Environmental issues with population

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OHSAS 18001

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OHSAS 18001

Certificate of conformity to OHSAS 18001:2007 OHSAS 18001, Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series, (officially BS OHSAS 18001) is an internationally applied British Standard for occupational health and safety management systems. It exists to help all kinds of organisations put in place demonstrably sound occupational health and safety performance. It is a widely recognised and popular occupational health and safety management system.[1] ISO 45001, which is based in part on OHSAS 18001, was published in March 2018 and is anticipated by the International Organization for Standardization to replace OHSAS 18001 over three years.[2] BS ISO 45001 was adopted as a replacement for BS OHSAS 18001 in the United Kingdom in March 2018.[3] Origins Organizations worldwide recognize the need to control and improve health and safety performance and do so with occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS). However, before 1999 there was an increase of national standards and proprietary certification ...more...

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Safety codes

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