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Fractured state of decisions on sustainability: An assessment

Sikdar, Subhas K.
Sustainable Production and Consumption 2019 v.19 pp. 231-237
decision support systems, environmental sustainability, multi-criteria decision making
As it is impossible to define or characterize sustainability in the absolute, the pursuit of relative improvement of a properly identified system is the desirable approach for seeking sustainability. One would, however, need a set of proper indicators to measure this relative improvement. Generally, three domains of sustainability, i.e. environmental, economic, and societal are used to identify indicators. The problems of this extant approach are many as there is wide variability of the indicators that can be chosen by investigators for a system under study. Additionally, lack of orthogonality among the indicators can lead to bias, and the indicators frequently show mixed outcomes, some improving but others declining, as a result from some desired process refinement. All these difficulties have created a problem of assessing sustainability improvement and of differentiating logical versus false claims. In this perspective paper, several methods of sustainability assessments are discussed identifying these difficulties. Meanwhile, industry has been using shortcuts to claim sustainability improvements which may or may not be valid.