Gordon Mitchell. 1996.

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G. Mitchell, 1996. Problems and Fundamentals of Sustainable Development Indicators. Sustainable Development, Vol. 4, 1-11 (1996).


Measurement issues are of current concern to organizations faced with the task of promoting sustainability. Single figure aggregate indices of sustainable development (SD), primarily designed for use at the national scale, are not readily applicable locally and are a poor guide for decision-makers and citizens wishing to promote local sustainability. This has led to an abundance of sustainable development indicator (SDI) sets, each comprising a broad range of specific indicators. Existing indicator sets are not obviously compatible and there is a danger that, without the application of a clear method, indicators will be produced in an ad hoc fashion without full consideration of key SD principles or indicator characteristics. Such SDIs may be ineffective in promoting SD and possibly detrimental to the process. This paper examines the background to SDIs, including problems with their construction, and outlines fundamental steps that should be followed to produce any list of SDIs.

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