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Sustainable Development as a Goal

Social, Environmental and Economic Dimensions

Vera Mignaqui

Scholars are researching how to assess a country's sustainable development performance. However, not many proposals differentiate the performance via the three dimensions of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental. This article proposes to assess a country's sustainable development performance in general as well as in each of the dimensions. It pursues three objectives: (1) identifying sustainably developed countries; (2) assessing the best performers in terms of sustainable development; and (3) understanding the relations between the dimensions. Results show a globally bad sustainable development performance, with no sustainably developed countries. They also show that the economic dimension is not the best performing dimension at a global level and that very high levels of gross national income (GNI) per capita usually imply a bad environmental performance.

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Inventing Eco-Cycle

A Social Enterprise Approach to Sustainability Education

Sandy Smith-Nonini

This article discusses lessons learned from a social enterprise project supporting sustainability education in central North Carolina (U.S.A.). Since 2011, Eco-Cycle,1 a retail shop featuring creative-reuse has provided support for a community meeting space that offers weekly environmental education workshops. Many approaches to social justice-oriented green initiatives in the United States emulate urban agriculture models and tend to be grant-dependent in early years, only achieving economic sustainability with difficulty. In contrast, our non-profit co-op of upcycler crafters and vintage vendors grew out of production and marketing of upcycled rain barrels, based on a social enterprise approach rather than a traditional model. I discuss the stepping-stones to this venture, which originated through a neighbourhood energy conservation initiative, followed by alliance-building with non-profits to promote green job creation. I relate the complications and surprising forms of synergism emerging from the social enterprise approach to social theory on cooperatives and community-based development models.

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Syed Shahbaz Hussain and Pirzada Sami Ullah Sabri

This article analyzes and explores what policies Pakistan adopted to tackle its environmental challenges, effects and outcomes. The research consists of an overview of Pakistan's national environmental policy development and explains the motives and reasons to understand in what context the state formulates these policies. It also makes assessments and evaluations about to what extent policies are successful in achieving their objectives. The study suggests some implications of the Pakistan experience to cope with the global challenges of environmental protection.

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For a decade, the issue of sustainable development has been highlighted in international social policy debates and development studies. In order to ensure and increase the level of social quality, various societies struggle to achieve sustainable growth, with different policy measures in dissimilar circumstances of policy making. For some societies, including the European states, to ensure sustainability of welfare state systems is the primary task of government (especially after the financial crisis in the late 2000s), and in other cases, such as in Russia and the Southeast Asian states, economic growth (accompanied by sustainability, as is hoped) is the main concern. Several key issues are involved in this, such as sustainable economic growth, welfare finance, environmental policy and overall sustainability of society. The articles included in this issue of IJSQ touch on different aspects of the “sustainable growth” issue.

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Youngho Chang, Jiesheng Tan and Letian Chen

Studies on sustainable development rely on diverse and seemingly conflicting concepts that yield contrasting results. The root of these conflicting concepts is the lack of agreement on the path toward achieving sustainable development (SD), namely, weak (or economic) versus strong (or ecological) sustainability. This article revisits the Solow-Hartwick model (Solow 1974, 1986; Hartwick 1977, 1978a, 1978b), which suggests that an economy can achieve intergenerational equity by mandating the Hartwick rule of investing the amount of rents from natural capital into renewable capital. It constructs a modified Solow-Hartwick model in which the assumptions of constant population and no technological progress are relaxed and from which it derives a more general form of the Hartwick rule. The modified Solow-Hartwick investment rule presents how weak sustainability can be attained and explains how the residual Hotelling rents (or proceeds from natural resources) could be utilized in order to achieve strong sustainability. In this article, we apply the modified Solow-Hartwick investment rule to a selection of developing and developed Asian economies to assess their sustainability. We then compare our results with two existing measures of sustainability, the genuine savings (GS) model and the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), both of which frequently present contradicting evaluations on the status of sustainability.

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Els van Dongen and Hong Liu

What is the added value of investigating the contested concept of “sustainability” in tandem with the geographical marker of “Asia” in today’s world? To answer this question, we need to return to the formulation of the problematique of “sustainability” and “sustainable development” several decades ago. The Our Common Future report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)—also known as the Brundtland Commission—put forward the most commonly recognized and most frequently used definition of “sustainable development” (SD) in 1987.1 Development could be made sustainable, so the report stated, “to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987: 15). The report further proclaimed that there were limits to development, but that improvements in technology and social development could “make way for a new era of economic growth” (ibid.).

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Alan Walker

This article examines the extent to which the concept of social quality could contribute to a transformation in the debates about the welfare sustainability in Asia and Europe. The article starts by outlining the concept of social quality: its constitutional, conditional and normative components and the origins of its development as a European conceptual framework. Then a bridge is created between Europe and Asia by looking briefly at the similarities and differences between social quality and human security, a concept that is more familiar in the latter region than the former one. is is followed by a critique of the global discourses on 'sustainability' and, in particular, their dominance by economism. The final part of the article utilizes the concept of social quality to propose a more open and balanced approach to sustainability that brings in social and ecological considerations alongside economic ones. Some tentative suggestions are made concerning the operationalisation of a social quality approach to welfare system sustainability

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Valuing and Evaluating Marine Ecosystem Services

Putting the Right Price on Marine Environments?

Julian Clifton, Leanne C. Cullen-Unsworth and Richard K. F. Unsworth

The flow of ecosystem services from coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests sustains the livelihoods of billions of people worldwide. Faced with the global degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems, policy makers are increasingly focusing on ecosystem service valuation techniques to encourage conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. Here we provide a review and synthesis of the available information on economic valuation techniques as applied to tropical marine habitats. Our study demonstrates the high variability and lack of consistency in outcomes from these studies. We conclude that, if the concept of ecosystem goods and services is to make a positive contribution towards managing the impacts of humans on the environment, then economic valuation approaches must reflect the inherent limitations of economic theory whilst emphasizing the complexity and heterogeneity of the natural environment and human decision making.

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The social quality theory developed over a decade has run into new subject areas of discussion in accordance with the changed international climate of academic debates. Ten years ago, the main focus of these debates was located on the themes of welfare state vs. welfare society, social policy vs. economic policy, and the individual concerns vs. “the social”; the continuous work on the foundation of this theory has led to new issues including sustainability, social innovation, and urban development entering the debate. With regard to the sustainability issue, for instance, the Rio conference of 2012 on human sustainability offered a global forum for experts and policymakers to analyze societal trends and related challenges. These developments provide a new driving force for the social quality theory to move into new directions. This issue of IJSQ includes several articles that reflect this development.

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Mauro Sarrica, Sonia Brondi and Paolo Cottone

This article examines the contents of the representations of sustainable energy in Italy from 2009 to 2011. In particular it explores the representations of energy, energy systems, and users. The article's starting point was the assumption that critical points may change the relationship between communities and the represented issues, and that new representations may be dialogically elaborated following relevant societal events. Political debates and newspaper articles dealing with sustainable energy were subjected to content analyses. Results show that the representations bear witness to the prevalence of economic and strategic approaches and a view of citizens whereby, even when involved in decentralized systems, they are required to stay passive. Alternative contents seem not to challenge the hegemonic view of energy. A clear trend toward sustainability is lacking, suggesting the absence of a continuing motivation to look at energy taking into account the civic growth of the population.