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Reframing social sustainability reporting: towards an engaged approach

Listed author(s):
  • Liam Magee

    ()

  • Andy Scerri
  • Paul James
  • James Thom
  • Lin Padgham
  • Sarah Hickmott
  • Hepu Deng
  • Felicity Cahill
Registered author(s):

    Existing approaches to sustainability assessment are typically characterized as being either “top–down” or “bottom–up.” While top–down approaches are commonly adopted by businesses, bottom–up approaches are more often adopted by civil society organizations and communities. Top–down approaches clearly favor standardization and commensurability between other sustainability assessment efforts, to the potential exclusion of issues that really matter on the ground. Conversely, bottom–up approaches enable sustainability initiatives to speak directly to the concerns and issues of communities, but lack a basis for comparability. While there are clearly contexts in which one approach can be favored over another, it is equally desirable to develop mechanisms that mediate between both. In this paper, we outline a methodology for framing sustainability assessment and developing indicator sets that aim to bridge these two approaches. The methodology incorporates common components of bottom–up assessment: constituency-based engagement processes and opportunity to identify critical issues and indicators. At the same time, it uses the idea of a “knowledge base,” to help with the selection of standardized, top–down indicators. We briefly describe two projects where the aspects of the methodology have been trialed with urban governments and communities, and then present the methodology in full, with an accompanying description of a supporting software system. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10668-012-9384-2
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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Environment, Development and Sustainability.

    Volume (Year): 15 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 1 (February)
    Pages: 225-243

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:endesu:v:15:y:2013:i:1:p:225-243
    DOI: 10.1007/s10668-012-9384-2
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.springer.com

    Order Information: Web: http://www.springer.com/economics/journal/10668

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    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. Robinson, John, 2004. "Squaring the circle? Some thoughts on the idea of sustainable development," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 369-384, April.
    3. Nick Wills-Johnson, 2010. "Lessons for sustainability from the world’s most sustainable culture," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 12(6), pages 909-925, December.
    4. 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.
    5. Ness, Barry & Urbel-Piirsalu, Evelin & Anderberg, Stefan & Olsson, Lennart, 2007. "Categorising tools for sustainability assessment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 498-508, January.
    6. Giles Atkinson, 2000. "Measuring Corporate Sustainability," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(2), pages 235-252.
    7. Pedro Coelho & André Mascarenhas & Paula Vaz & Anabela Dores & Tomás B. Ramos, 2010. "A framework for regional sustainability assessment: developing indicators for a Portuguese region," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(4), pages 211-219.
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