Sustainability Metrics

The topic of sustainability metrics covered in week 10 definitely ties in with my blog about corporate social responsibility in which I mentioned the way in which corporations can measure how sustainable they are under the Global Reporting Initiative. Bernadette presented us a measure of sustainability applied to the Limerick city and Annacotty areas. This was quite interesting in the way we got to see how the areas compared to one another with regards to the various pillars of sustainability. I think it was a good reminder of the various areas that sustainability encompasses. When we hear sustainability it is easy to associate it environmentalism and going green but sustainability is also measured on the economy, society and governance. I think it is especially important now that we are aware of these areas when you take two important factors into consideration, 1.the different notions of sustainability that exist , and 2.our economic situation.

1.Sustainability is concerned with the endurance of stocks of capital(resources).The two notions of sustainability; weak sustainability and strong sustainability, differ in opinion about how stocks of capital should be managed. Weak sustainability is not concerned about the form which these stocks of capital take, be they natural or man-made. So long as there is no reduction in their amount from generation to generation, everything is fine. Strong sustainability, aswell as maintaining capital stocks, requires that the stocks of natural capital(ecological assets) not be depleted on the basis that they are non-substitutable and are essential for life. Weak sustainability allows for the continued depletion of our natural resources and it must be said that this is the approach that is taken in the western, industrialised world at the moment. It places growth ahead of development. Contrast this with strong sustainability that would like to see greater decoupling referring to the ability to grow without increases in environmental pressure.

2. I think the concepts of weak and strong sustainability are especially relevant to Ireland when you consider our economic position. For example, An Coillte is a state-owned company that manages 445,000ha of forestry throughout the country. With the current IMF bailout of  €85 billion and the interest it will accrue, the irish government may be pressured or even ordered to sell off our forests. Once this happens we have no say in their fate, whether the practices of weak or strong sustainability are applied. In my opinion this is where the importance of sustainability metrics is really seen. Perhaps they can put a value on resources such as forests that would highlight the need to preserve them, taking into consideration not just the monetary value that some private party would pay for them but also their benefit to society and to the environment. The essential pillar necessary for this is proper governance, but who knows how much of this we can do with the IMF breathing down our neck.

References:

http://www.savannas.net/sust_faqs.htm#weak sustainability

http://2ndgreenrevolution.com/2010/09/26/the-difference-between-weak-and-strong-sustainability/

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