Analysing the Use of Sustainability Indicators

  • Stephen Morse


Teasing apart the “use” of sustainability indicators (SIs) is a challenging field of study, and one that is still relatively underexplored. A recent EU-funded research project entitled “Policy Influence of Indicators” (POINT) had this as part of its focus, but there is still much space that needs to be explored. Analysing the “use” or indeed “influence” of SIs in policy and other contexts is challenging for a number of reasons, not least of which is the difficulty in separating out any impact of SIs from the myriad of other influences that may be at play. A further concern is the meaning of “use”, a term that can be highly malleable. As a first step towards an empirically based analysis, one could look at the reporting of an SI by the media, a group that can be presumed to have some influence over the general public and indeed civil servants, politicians and so on. This is, however, a complex two-way relationship, as the media is, in turn, influenced by these same groups, but it seems reasonable to assume that if the media “uses” an SI in its reporting, then that is a measure of “success”, even if a limited one. Hence, the aim of the research reported in this chapter is to explore the use of SIs by global newspapers and to see whether SIs linked to fiscal sustainability are more prominent in this regard. The results suggest that many factors are at play in the “use” of SIs in the press (as measured by both the number of articles and the diversity of reporting), and these are discussed along with lessons for SI developers.


Sustainability indicators Use Influence Natural selection 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Morse
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SurreySurreyUK

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