Why sustainability indices give contradicting results

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The goal of this article is to investigate why different sustainable development indices provide contradicting judgments on sustainability. The research focuses on eight sustainability indices (ecological footprint, environmental sustainability index, environmental space, index of sustainable economic welfare, genuine progress indicator, human development index, genuine savings and environmentally adjusted net national product). To begin with, calculation methods of these indices are compared followed by demonstrating the conflicting judgments of sustainability that they provide when put side by side for six countries. With an attempt to reason these contradictions, the indices are then critically analyzed from the perspective of how their underlying concepts approach the notion of sustainability and which key question the indices actually answer. The analysis demonstrates that the indices understand the notion of sustainable development very differently and that they have very diverse underlying concepts for measuring sustainability, thus providing the basis for seemingly contradicting judgments. A comparison of the answers these indices truly provide for the six countries indicates that the contradictions are nonexistent if indices are used correctly, i.e. if they are operationalized in order to measure what they can instead of answering the question whether an economy is sustainable or not. It can be concluded that if sustainability indices do provide contradicting results then this is because of using them in an uninformed mannerThe result of any research on ethical sustainability or sustainability in general depends significantly on the choice of research methods, which on their turn depend directly on the environmental ethics of the researcher. To avoid misunderstanding of the results, to state the ethical values of researcher at the beginning of any investigation is good point to start with.

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