UNRISD:Compared to What? A Three-Tiered Typology of Sustainable Development Performance Indicators From Incremental to Contextual to Transformational

UNRISD / 29-12-2019

  • Author(s): Bill Baue
  • Programme Area: Social Dimensions of Sustainable Development
  • Project Title: Sustainable Development Performance Indicators
  • No. of Pages: 46
  • Compared to what? That’s the key question this report asks, when it comes to assessing sustainable development performance. So-called sustainable development indicators abound, but do they actually do what they purport to do? Not really, argues Bill Baue in this report: almost no current sustainable development indicators, that is, actually indicate sustainable development.

    Why not? To answer this question, it helps to ask, compared to what? Current sustainable development indicators typically compare performance to incremental goalposts – less this, less that – which, of course, doesn’t actually tell us anything about the sustainability of the impactsTo remedy this, the report invokes the Sustainability Quotient (S = A/N), which compares actual impacts (in the numerator) to normative impacts (in the denominator) to calibrate sustainability.

    Bill Baue, an internationally recognized expert on Thriveability, Sustainability Context, and Online Stakeholder Engagement, is a co-founder of r3.0, Sustainability Context Group, Sea Change Radio, and Currnt. He currently serves as Senior Director of r3.0, where he oversees the Blueprint Projects that are crowdsourcing redesign templates for the fields of reporting, accounting, data, new business models, sustainable finance, and value cycles. He is also currently leading the establishment of the Global Thresholds & Allocations Council, and is undertaking research for the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) in addition to UNRISD. Bill Baue has worked with organizations across the sustainability ecosystem, including Audubon, Cabot Creamery Coop, Ceres, GE, Harvard, United Nations Environment Programme, Walmart, and Worldwatch Institute. He serves on the Technical Advisory Group of the Science Based Targets initiative, and as a Senior Advisor to Preventable Surprises.


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