Measuring Sustainability



Measuring Sustainability

The concept of sustainable development from 1980 to the present has evolved into definitions of the three pillars of sustainability (social, economic and environmental). The recent economic and financial crisis has helped to newly define economic sustainability. It has brought into focus the economic pillar and cast a question mark over the sustainability of development based on economic progress. This means fully addressing the economic issues on their own merits with no apparent connection to the environmental aspects. Environmental sustainability is correctly defined by focusing on its biogeophysical aspects. This means maintaining or improving the integrity of the Earth's life supporting systems. The concept of sustainable development and its three pillars has evolved from a rather vague and mostly qualitative notion to more precise specifications defined many times over in quantitative terms. Hence the need for a wide array of indicators is very clear. The paper analyses the different approaches and types of indicators developed which are used for the assessment of environmental sustainability. One important aspect here is setting targets and then “measuring” the distance to a target to get the appropriate information on the current state or trend.



Carbon dioxide emissions per dollar of revenue, amount of renewable and non-renewable materials used in metric tonnes, operational sites owned, leased, managed in, or adjacent to protected areas, and areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas, absolute energy consumption in joules, total water withdrawal by source in cubic meters, percentage of waste recycled or composted are just a few of the more than 200 environmental key performance indicators that can be evaluated in sustainability frameworks.

While measuring environmental aspects or physical dimensions of sustainability with traditional sustainability metrics, our team also looks at key performance indicators pertaining to social and governance factors. We believe these make up the two other components of conventional corporate social responsibility and much of current sustainability reporting. Environmental key performance indicators can be grouped into the following categories (from largest to smallest): emissions; compliance, investments and policies; energy; water; effluents and waste; materials; transport and travel; oil and gas; and biodiversity. With in-depth expertise in life cycle assessments and metrics we can help grow your business to a sustainable future.