IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Comparing region-specific sustainability assessments through indicator systems: Feasible or not?


  • van Zeijl-Rozema, Annemarie
  • Ferraguto, Ludovico
  • Caratti, Pietro


Numerous indices help us to compare country and local performance in the field of human development, globalization and sustainable development. Obvious problems arise, such as data availability and data quality. A less obvious issue is that such sets and indices do not permit the inclusion of specific characteristics or discourses that are important in a country or region. This paper investigates the possibility of comparing regional sustainability assessments in four case studies, where the indicators vary from region to region, but the method of making the assessment is similar. The concepts of weak and strong comparability were used in this analysis. Comparability of sustainable development between different regions is not an issue of rigid comparison of indicator by indicator. It should take into account regional specifics. The resulting shift from strong to weak comparability should not be seen as a lessening of the quality of the assessment and decreasing comparability. Rather than focusing on individual indicators within frameworks that do not permit inclusion of regional developments, this approach allows to look at the broader picture of regional dynamics. It reveals specific regional weaknesses that need attention, and possible areas for building alliances between regions, thus creating a more sustainable Europe.

Suggested Citation

  • van Zeijl-Rozema, Annemarie & Ferraguto, Ludovico & Caratti, Pietro, 2011. "Comparing region-specific sustainability assessments through indicator systems: Feasible or not?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 475-486, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:3:p:475-486

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bohringer, Christoph & Jochem, Patrick E.P., 2007. "Measuring the immeasurable -- A survey of sustainability indices," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 1-8, June.
    2. Phil Mcmanus, 2008. "Mines, Wines and Thoroughbreds: Towards Regional Sustainability in the Upper Hunter, Australia," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(9), pages 1275-1290.
    3. Pietro Caratti & Ludovico Ferraguto, 2008. "Analysing Regional Sustainability Through a Systemic Approach: The Lombardy Case Study," Working Papers 2008.43, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    4. Mendoza, Guillermo A. & Prabhu, Ravi, 2006. "Participatory modeling and analysis for sustainable forest management: Overview of soft system dynamics models and applications," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 179-196, November.
    5. Pietro Caratti & Ludovico Ferraguto, 2006. "Sustainable Development Data Availability on the Internet," Working Papers 2006.125, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    6. Giuseppe Munda, 2005. "“Measuring Sustainability”: A Multi-Criterion Framework," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 117-134, January.
    7. Boulanger, Paul-Marie & Brechet, Thierry, 2005. "Models for policy-making in sustainable development: The state of the art and perspectives for research," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 337-350, November.
    8. Joachim H. Spangenberg, 2005. "Economic sustainability of the economy: concepts and indicators," International Journal of Sustainable Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 8(1/2), pages 47-64.
    9. Martinez-Alier, Joan & Munda, Giuseppe & O'Neill, John, 1998. "Weak comparability of values as a foundation for ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 277-286, September.
    10. Phillis, Yannis A. & Andriantiatsaholiniaina, Luc A., 2001. "Sustainability: an ill-defined concept and its assessment using fuzzy logic," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 435-456, June.
    11. Graymore, Michelle L.M. & Sipe, Neil G. & Rickson, Roy E., 2008. "Regional sustainability: How useful are current tools of sustainability assessment at the regional scale?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 362-372, October.
    12. Kevin Morgan, 2004. "Sustainable regions: Governance, innovation and scale," European Planning Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(6), pages 871-889, September.
    13. Hueting, Roefie & Reijnders, Lucas, 2004. "Broad sustainability contra sustainability: the proper construction of sustainability indicators," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3-4), pages 249-260, October.
    14. Stefano Pareglio & Alessandro Vaglio & Marco Grasso & Stefania Migliavacca & Enzo Di Giulio, 2005. "Modelling sustainable human development in a capability perspective," Public Economics 0504008, EconWPA.
    15. Heinz-Herbert Noll, 2002. "Towards a European System of Social Indicators: Theoretical Framework and System Architecture," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 58(1), pages 47-87, June.
    16. Reed, Mark S. & Fraser, Evan D.G. & Dougill, Andrew J., 2006. "An adaptive learning process for developing and applying sustainability indicators with local communities," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(4), pages 406-418, October.
    17. Rodrigo Jiliberto Herrera, 2006. "A new system epistemology for sustainable development analysis," International Journal of Sustainable Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 9(3), pages 211-226.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Olafsson, Snjolfur & Cook, David & Davidsdottir, Brynhildur & Johannsdottir, Lara, 2014. "Measuring countries׳ environmental sustainability performance – A review and case study of Iceland," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 934-948.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:3:p:475-486. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.