Keywords: sustainable development, theory, national indicators, New Zealand, ecological footprint, sustainability, headline indicators
The power of one: developing a headline indicator for tracking progress to sustainability in New Zealand
New Zealand has recently adopted sustainable development policy goals in its Sustainable Development for New Zealand Programme of Action. One question the Programme of Action must address is how to communicate progress to decision-makers and the community. Drawing on the communicating power of headline indicators is one approach to this communication exercise. The Ministry for the Environment recently commissioned an analysis of potential headline indicators for tracking progress towards sustainable development goals. The findings from the consequent report prepared by Patterson are summarised in this paper. The research revealed that definitions of 'headline indicators', sustainability, and selection criteria are essential for successfully selecting appropriate headline indicators. This analysis identified the Ecological Footprint and Genuine Progress Indicator as two potentially useful headline indicators. It also recommends that further investigations be undertaken into constructing a composite index of sustainable development for New Zealand that explicitly measures the economic, social and environmental aspects of progress.