Substantiating the rough consensus on concept of sustainable development as point of departure for indicator development

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In this chapter I maintain that, despite the endless condemnations of the vagueness of the concept and definition of sustainable development (SD), in practice we can see a rough consensus on what it includes. Claims about vagueness are the result of the on-going, open and divergent discourses on what is needed for sustainable development. This divergence has its roots in the shared tendency to disagree within and between academic disciplines; in the political arena; and the competitive framings of the concept in the market arena. However, despite this noisy cacophony, we see, in a few globally oriented communities of practice (of voluntary standards, GRI, LCA, LCSA, some of the well-developed sustainable development indicators), a rough consensus on the core elements of the concept of sustainable development, which is also well in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Some sub-elements still need some refining, while some other key elements may still be further refined with additional sub-elements, but a core structure exists and is being widely worked with. In this chapter I bring together widely shared views in diverse academic and practitioners’ communities, which by smart combining can help to create an integrated view. I will reflect on the commonalities, some persistent confusion and show routes for further refinement
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Sustainability Indicators
EditorsSimon Bell, Stephen Morse
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781315561103
ISBN (Print)9781138674769
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Sustainable development
  • SDGs
  • LCA
  • sLCA
  • LCC
  • LCSA
  • VSS
  • indicators
  • logic models


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