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Social sustainability: an exploratory analysis of its definition, assessment methods metrics and tools

By Andrea Colantonio


In recent years social sustainability has gained increased recognition as a fundamental component of sustainable development. Previous research on sustainability has been limited to environmental and economic concerns, however, social sustainability has begun to receive political and institutional endorsement, becoming entwined with the sustainable communities agenda and the notions of governance, social capital and corporate social responsibility. This paper provides a comprehensive overview of our current understanding of social sustainability and identifies the main propositions of the concept. Further, the paper reviews the major assessment methods, metrics and tools of social sustainability and assesses the methodological and practical hurdles to their full implementation. The paper contends that the assessment and measurement of social sustainability are still dominated by the holistic versus the reductionist approach debate, which is unlikely to be resolved in the near future, and argues that a new breed of indicators containing a perceptual component is increasingly being suggested for sustainability policy prescriptions. In terms of sustainability tools, the paper demonstrates how these are often based on monetisation and accounting techniques that do not take into account the participation element of social sustainability. In addition, despite the promotion of social capital is often included in sustainable development policies, there is paucity of tools for the implementation of this concept

Topics: HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Publisher: Oxford Brooks University, Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) - International Land Markets Group
Year: 2007
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Provided by: LSE Research Online
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