Inderscience Publishers

Measuring sustainable development in the era of globalisation: can it be done and what way ahead?

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Can 'sustainable development' be measured? This question is discussed through providing a review and stock-take of debates on the measurement of sustainable development, drawing on parallels with the evolution of poverty measurement. Taking a narrow, purely environmental, definition of sustainable development, green indicators are categorised and assessed. The paper argues that: existing measures are limited by the lack of a workable definition of sustainable development to provide a conceptual 'launch-pad'; within the current globalisation era, measures are either biased for or against the current outward-orientated liberalisation-led economic growth development model – what is or is not sustainable is then an artefact of methodology; and current attempts at measuring sustainable development have been 'red herrings', as they are unbounded and static conceptualisations. Rather, future research should be concerned with a more bounded, dynamic analysis and with the transposition onto the environment of a poverty concept – the poverty elasticity of growth – in a green elasticity of growth.

Keywords: environment, sustainable development measurement, statistics, globalisation, green indicators, environmental indicators

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