1.1. The “Missing Pillar” of Sustainability: A Convergence of Perspectives
1.2. Ethical Values in International Sustainability Discourses
|Source||Values of Sustainability/Sustainable Development (SD)||How described|
|Earth Charter||Respect and Care for the Community of Life |
Social and Economic Justice
Democracy, Non-Violence and Peace
|“We urgently need a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for the emerging world community”  (p. 1)|
“…we affirm the following interdependent principles for a sustainable way of life as a common standard by which the conduct of all individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and transnational institutions is to be guided and assessed”  (p. 1)
|UN Millennium Declaration (2000)||Freedom, Equality|
Respect for Nature
|“We consider certain fundamental values to be essential to international relations in the twenty-first century.”  (Section 6)|
|“Global values” (1945–2006)||Equality (561)|
|This list contains the 16 most frequent “global values” identified through a content analysis of 22 international documents issued between 1945 and 2006 inclusive . Each word in the list represents a cluster of similar concepts or meanings (e.g., “Peace” represents “peace, non-violence, harmony, social cohesion”). The numbers in brackets refer to the number of times that the respective value cluster was mentioned in the 22 documents. Less frequently mentioned values were love, nurturing, privacy, confidentiality, informed/free consent, innovation, creativity, imagination, empowerment, generosity, gratitude, humility, wisdom, resilience, hope, stability, and reverence (i.e., for life and the environment). These values do not appear as lists in the original documents; their collation into list form has been done by De Leo.|
|Final Report from Rio + 10 (2002)||Freedom|
Respect for Nature
|“Some participants [in Round Table 3] highlighted links among environment, trade, peace accords, military arms reduction, the implementation of the Monterrey agreement and developing the values of democracy within a sustainable development framework. They supported adherence to the principles…”  (p. 127)|
|Final Report from Rio + 20 (2012)||None listed||“We reaffirm the intrinsic value of biological diversity, as well as the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic values of biological diversity…”  (p. 38)|
1.3. Toward Ethical Values-Based Indicators
2. Are Values Measurable?
2.1. What Do We Mean by “Values”? Espousal Versus Enactment
2.2. The Theoretical Possibility of Measuring Values Enactment
2.2.1. Can Values Enactment be Objectively Defined?
“We can measure, for example, whether Pat actually puts the little bird back in its nest, visits the hospital on Christmas…or refuses to contribute to saving the whales. All of those behaviors exist, so we can measure them. But is Pat really compassionate? We can’t answer that question: we can’t measure compassion in any objective sense, because compassion doesn’t exist in the sense that those things I just described exist.”
2.2.2. Is Objective Definition a Prerequisite for Operationalization and Measurement?
3. Developing and Using Values-Based Indicators: An Illustrative Example
3.1. Background: The ESDinds Project
3.2. Measuring Values Enactment at the Project Level
4.1. Potential for the Further Development of Values-Based Indicators
4.2. Mitigating the Risk of Perverse Effects
4.3. Values-Based Indicators, Transdisciplinarity and Sustainability
5. Conclusions and Recommendations
- Establishing a manageable but meaningful consultation process with key stakeholder groups within the institutions tasked with developing SDGs, to ensure that appropriate indicators and assessment tools relating to ethical values (as a key element of the “missing pillar” of sustainability) are formulated in parallel with the goals themselves;
- Ensuring that projects initiated in support of SDGs are context-relevant and defined on the basis of consultation about local needs, priorities and values, rather than by the desire to improve national or global performance in relation to measurable indicators such as GDP;
- Facilitating or encouraging a funding mechanism to support rigorous research into indicators and assessment methodologies focusing on sustainability processes and outcomes that are less tangible, or more qualitative in nature, than those currently being measured, including studies of perverse effects and how they might be mitigated or avoided;
- Using values-based indicators to reflect on some of the complex barriers to success in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (e.g., reframing conflict as a failure to enact values such as equality and tolerance, overexploitation of finite environmental resources as a deficiency in “respect and care for the community of life”, or systemic corruption as a lack of trustworthiness and integrity), in order to identify timely measures that might be taken to address these issues from a values perspective;
- Investing in research that addresses the issue of sustainability assessment in general, and values-based indicators in particular, through the lens of transdisciplinarity.
Conflict of Interest
References and Notes
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