Sustainability indicators and indices: An overview

Jianguo Wu, Jianguo Wu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

103 Scopus citations


Human activities have profoundly transformed the biosphere, and various signs-including global climate change, biodiversity loss, and urban pollution-indicate that our world is on an unsustainable trajectory. To insure the well-being of the current and future generations, operationalizing the concept of sustainability has become the most salient challenge of our time. To meet this challenge, a cogent set of metrics-sustainability indicators and indices-is indispensable, which allow us to locate our present condition relative to conditions that have prevailed in the past, and to develop relevant perspectives to frame actions for the future. This, however, can be a difficult task given the diversity of perspectives and disciplines concerned with sustainability, and the complexity of issues that need to be addressed. In this chapter, we present an overview of this broad but still emerging body of research. We discuss the basic principles and scientific perspectives underlying the concept of sustainability or sustainable development. Then, based on these lines of inquiry, a survey of inclusive and influential indicator frameworks is presented. These organizing schemes constitute a foundation that is crucial to the construction, interpretation, and application of sustainability indicators. Then, we examine a selection of commonly used sustainability indices. Finally, we conclude the chapter with some reflections on the nature and future of sustainability measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Sustainability Management
PublisherWorld Scientific Publishing Co.
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789814354820
ISBN (Print)9814354813, 9789814354813
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • General Environmental Science


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