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Considering the normative, systemic and procedural dimensions in indicator-based sustainability assessments in agriculture


Binder, C R; Feola, G; Steinberger, J K (2010). Considering the normative, systemic and procedural dimensions in indicator-based sustainability assessments in agriculture. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 30(2):71 - 81.

Abstract

This paper develops a framework for evaluating sustainability assessment methods by separately analyzing
their normative, systemic and procedural dimensions as suggested by Wiek and Binder [Wiek, A, Binder, C.
Solution spaces for decision-making – a sustainability assessment tool for city-regions. Environ Impact Asses
Rev 2005, 25: 589-608.]. The framework is then used to characterize indicator-based sustainability
assessment methods in agriculture.
For a long time, sustainability assessment in agriculture has focused mostly on environmental and technical
issues, thus neglecting the economic and, above all, the social aspects of sustainability, the multifunctionality
of agriculture and the applicability of the results. In response to these shortcomings, several
integrative sustainability assessment methods have been developed for the agricultural sector. This paper
reviews seven of these that represent the diversity of tools developed in this area.
The reviewed assessment methods can be categorized into three types: (i) top-down farm assessment
methods; (ii) top-down regional assessment methods with some stakeholder participation; (iii) bottom-up,
integrated participatory or transdisciplinary methods with stakeholder participation throughout the process.
The results readily show the trade-offs encountered when selecting an assessment method. A clear, standardized, top-down procedure allows for potentially benchmarking and comparing results across regions and sites. However, this comes at the cost of system specificity. As the top-down methods often have low stakeholder involvement, the application and implementation of the results might be difficult. Our analysis suggests that to include the aspects mentioned above in agricultural sustainability assessment, the bottomup, integrated participatory or transdisciplinary methods are the most suitable ones.

Abstract

This paper develops a framework for evaluating sustainability assessment methods by separately analyzing
their normative, systemic and procedural dimensions as suggested by Wiek and Binder [Wiek, A, Binder, C.
Solution spaces for decision-making – a sustainability assessment tool for city-regions. Environ Impact Asses
Rev 2005, 25: 589-608.]. The framework is then used to characterize indicator-based sustainability
assessment methods in agriculture.
For a long time, sustainability assessment in agriculture has focused mostly on environmental and technical
issues, thus neglecting the economic and, above all, the social aspects of sustainability, the multifunctionality
of agriculture and the applicability of the results. In response to these shortcomings, several
integrative sustainability assessment methods have been developed for the agricultural sector. This paper
reviews seven of these that represent the diversity of tools developed in this area.
The reviewed assessment methods can be categorized into three types: (i) top-down farm assessment
methods; (ii) top-down regional assessment methods with some stakeholder participation; (iii) bottom-up,
integrated participatory or transdisciplinary methods with stakeholder participation throughout the process.
The results readily show the trade-offs encountered when selecting an assessment method. A clear, standardized, top-down procedure allows for potentially benchmarking and comparing results across regions and sites. However, this comes at the cost of system specificity. As the top-down methods often have low stakeholder involvement, the application and implementation of the results might be difficult. Our analysis suggests that to include the aspects mentioned above in agricultural sustainability assessment, the bottomup, integrated participatory or transdisciplinary methods are the most suitable ones.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:Implementation
Language:English
Date:February 2010
Deposited On:20 Mar 2010 10:49
Last Modified:06 Dec 2017 23:57
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0195-9255
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eiar.2009.06.002

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