Keywords: informing systems, sustainability indicators, sustainability definitions, sustainable development, social changes, economic changes, environmental changes, sustainability measurement
Towards an integrated sustainability indicator framework
Suites of sustainability indicators are increasingly used by governments and the private sector to measure 'sustainability'. These suites typically include data on issues like unemployment, business investment, poverty, pollution and health status, which have been collected by diverse agencies using different methodologies. The original purpose of the indicators has not been the measurement of sustainability. It is argued that such sets of indicators are ill-suited to measuring sustainability unless the social, economic and environmental contexts in which they are collected are understood. If the purpose of sustainability indicators is to help understand the interrelated forces driving social, economic and environmental changes, then the indicators themselves should be derived from an epistemologically consistent conceptual framework if they are to provide indications of sustainability in the social, economic and environmental sense. To illustrate this argument, this paper reviews definitions of sustainability and headline sustainability indicator frameworks developed by governments and the private sector over the last decade.