Sustainable Development Indicators: From Statistics to Policy

Per Arild Garnåsjordet, Iulie Aslaksen, Mario Giampietro, Silvio Funtowicz, Torgeir Ericson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Sustainable development indicators (SDIs) may have good potential to bring environmental concerns to the policy agenda. However, different understandings of sustainability, definitions of SDIs and measurement procedures may give completely different assessments of whether society moves towards a sustainable development path or not. Compilation of statistical indicators for environmental change and sustainability comprises not only a selection of facts in some technical sense, as the choices involved are conditioned by societal interests and implicit values embedded in the data-generating processes. This implies that statistical offices cannot ignore the role that values play in the generation of accurate data sets. To give an assessment of sustainability, we need not only to address historical trends but also to evaluate policy choices made today and how they may influence future development. SDI sets should be evaluated according to how they contribute to deliberation on sustainability in learning processes involving participants beyond the science-policy interface. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-336
JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


  • Policy
  • Statistical narratives
  • Sustainability assessment
  • Sustainable development indicators


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