Inderscience Publishers

Beyond the 'indicator industry': use and potential influences of sustainable development indicators in Finland and the EU

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In order to assess progress towards sustainability, various indicators and indicator sets have been developed at multiple levels and sectors. Relatively little is known on whether they are actually used and what influences they may have. We examine the use of sustainable development indicators in Finland and across the EU based on document analysis and interviews with indicator developers and expected end–users. The results show that the indicators are used, but their use is largely confined to within what is known as the indicator industry, which comprises actors who are associated with indicator development. Barriers of use and possibilities to generate wider impacts on society are discussed. Possibilities for increasing the direct instrumental use of indicators outside the indicator industry appear less likely and less relevant than possibilities for advancing conceptual or political use. This has important implications on the attempts to enhance the influence of indicators in the industrial ecology and beyond.

Keywords: sustainability indicators, policy influence, knowledge use, strategies, sustainable development, Finland, EU, European Union, barriers of use, impact on society, industrial ecology

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