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Traditional and emerging prospects in social sustainability: 2008/02

By Andrea Colantonio


The paper explores the notion of social sustainability and critically examines the main assessment methods and metrics established to ‘measure’ the state and evolution of its underlying concepts. The paper shows how there is no consensus on the definition of social sustainability because this concept is currently being approached from diverging study perspectives and discipline-specific criteria,making a generalised definition difficult to achieve. In addition, traditional ‘hard’ social sustainability themes such as employment and poverty alleviation are increasingly being complemented or replaced by ‘soft’ and less measurable concepts such as happiness, well being and sense of place. This is adding complexity to the analysis,especially from an assessment point of view Within this context, the paper builds upon the recent ‘reductionist ’versus ‘integrated’ sustainability assessment debate and contends that there is paucity of social sustainability assessment methodologies.Indeed, at a practical level, social sustainability assessment is often conducted (i)through social impact assessment, which is extended to incorporate biophysical and economical variables or (ii) by broadening the definition ‘environment’ and hence the thematic coverage of theme-specific assessment such as SIA. Similarly, the paper maintains that the development of new sustainability indicators is increasingly focused on measuring emerging themes rather than on improving the assessment of focused on measuring more traditional concepts such as equity and fairness. Indeed, the latter continue to be measured mainly in terms of income distribution and other monetary variables, hampering a meaningful progress in the assessment of social sustainability

Topics: HC Economic History and Conditions
Publisher: Oxford Brooks University, Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) - International Land Markets Group
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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