Special Issue "Sustainability Indicators for Environment Management"

A special issue of Resources (ISSN 2079-9276).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2017).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Francisco Areal
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Applied Economics, Marketing and Development Group, Agri-Food Economics and Social Sciences Division, School of Agriculture, Policy & Development, University of Reading, UK
Interests: sustainability indicators; efficiency analysis; economic and environmental performance of GM crops; environmental valuation; spatial analysis

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Achieving sustainability, a problem resulting from the interdependence between economic and ecological systems, faces challenges, such as an increasing world population and associated (also increasing) material demands. In addition, since the 1970s, when sustainability concerns began to appear in international policy agendas, a large number of definitions of sustainability have been created with no universal agreement on which one should be used. For instance, the sustainability concept has been interpreted in terms of sustainable development, sustained development, and survivable development. Additionally, there is a debate in the literature about whether natural capital and man-made capital can be substituted (weak sustainability) or not (strong sustainability); and although, generally, sustainability can be thought of as a global issue, it can also be seen as a smaller-scale issue in cases where the interdependence between the economic and ecological systems analyzed is relevant at a smaller scale (e.g., sustainability of an industry, sustainability of a national economy). Although the lack of agreement on what sustainability means has led to different sustainability paths and policy recommendations, there is value in continuing to pursue a better understanding of how to achieve the different interpretations of sustainability. For this, the concept of sustainability, and its different interpretations and scales, require of well-defined measures that can be used as tools for environmental management. Consequently, sustainable indicators have been developed and used by academics to analyze global sustainability and environmental management at different industries (e.g., agricultural farms) and at different spatial levels (e.g., local, national, international) and continue to do so.

We are interested in articles that:

  • develop novel sustainability indicators for environmental management at local, regional, or national level.
  • apply the use of sustainability indicators to a relevant industry at local, regional, or national level.
  • incorporate spatial aspects into sustainability indicators for environmental management.
  • deal with uncertainty and limitations of sustainability indicators.
  • include a managerial and/or policy angle.

Further suggestions are welcome.

Dr. Francisco Areal
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Resources is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Sustainability
  • Environmental management
  • Farm management
  • Environmental indicators
  • Ecological indicators
  • Economic indicators
  • Social indicators
  • Composite indicators
  • Efficiency

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Article
Developing Composite Indicators for Agricultural Sustainability Assessment: Effect of Normalization and Aggregation Techniques
Resources 2017, 6(4), 66; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources6040066 - 24 Nov 2017
Cited by 43 | Viewed by 5519
Abstract
The assessment of the sustainability of agricultural systems is multidimensional in nature and requires holistic measures using indicators with different measurements and units reflecting social, economic, and environmental aspects. To simplify the assessment process, various indicators have different units, and measurements are grouped [...] Read more.
The assessment of the sustainability of agricultural systems is multidimensional in nature and requires holistic measures using indicators with different measurements and units reflecting social, economic, and environmental aspects. To simplify the assessment process, various indicators have different units, and measurements are grouped under broad indicator heads, and normalization and/or transformation processes are carried out in order to aggregate them. In this study, a total of 50 indicators from agricultural sustainability categories of productivity, stability, efficiency, durability, compatibility, and equity are employed to investigate which normalization technique is the most suitable for further mathematical analysis for developing a final composite indicator. To understand the consistency and quality of normalization measurement techniques and compare the benefits and drawbacks of the various selected normalization processes, the indicators of agricultural sustainability are considered. Each of the different techniques for normalization has advantages and drawbacks. This study shows that the proportionate normalization and hybrid aggregation rules of the arithmetic mean and the geometric mean are appropriate for the selected data set, and that this technique has a wider applicability for developing composite indicators for agricultural sustainability assessment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability Indicators for Environment Management)
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Article
Proposal of a Sustainable Circular Index for Manufacturing Companies
Resources 2017, 6(4), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources6040063 - 10 Nov 2017
Cited by 42 | Viewed by 6385
Abstract
Recently the circular economy has increasingly received attention worldwide due to the recognition that the security of the supply of resources and environmental sustainability are crucial for the prosperity of all the countries and businesses. G20 countries are stimulating the development of frameworks [...] Read more.
Recently the circular economy has increasingly received attention worldwide due to the recognition that the security of the supply of resources and environmental sustainability are crucial for the prosperity of all the countries and businesses. G20 countries are stimulating the development of frameworks that enhance the circular economy and generally more sustainable production and consumption modes. In this context, this paper aims to suggest an index to assess the sustainability and the circularity of manufacturing companies. With this tenet, a Sustainable Circular Index (SCI) is proposed based on a five-phase framework. This index could support managers in assessing their level of sustainability and circularity and in implementing some practices that could improve the performances of their companies regarding these two topics. This index represents an important benchmarking tool for manufacturing companies to assess their sustainable and circular behavior and represents a guideline for managers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability Indicators for Environment Management)
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Article
A New Composite Index for Greenhouse Gases: Climate Science Meets Social Science
Resources 2017, 6(4), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources6040062 - 25 Oct 2017
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3644
Abstract
Global greenhouse gas emissions have increased at a rate of nearly 2% per year since 1970, and the rate of increase has been increasing. The contribution of greenhouse gases to global warming constitutes an environmental management challenge requiring interdisciplinary effort and international cooperation. [...] Read more.
Global greenhouse gas emissions have increased at a rate of nearly 2% per year since 1970, and the rate of increase has been increasing. The contribution of greenhouse gases to global warming constitutes an environmental management challenge requiring interdisciplinary effort and international cooperation. In an effort to meet this challenge, the Kyoto Protocol imposes limits on aggregate CO2-equivalent emissions of four greenhouse gases, although it permits countries to trade off one gas for another at specified rates. This requires a definition of trade-off rates, which the Protocol specifies as Global Warming Potentials, although these have been controversial since their introduction. The primary source of concern has been the constancy of the trade-off rates, both across countries and through time. We propose a new composite index that allows freely variable trade-off rates, thereby facilitating the design of efficient abatement policy. In a pair of exercises we compare our composite index with that used by the Protocol. In both exercises we reject the constancy of trade-off rates, although despite the significantly different weighting schemes we find a degree of concordance between the two greenhouse gas indices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability Indicators for Environment Management)
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Article
A Tool for the Sustainability Assessment of Farms: Selection, Adaptation and Use of Indicators for an Italian Case Study
Resources 2017, 6(4), 60; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources6040060 - 24 Oct 2017
Cited by 24 | Viewed by 4492
Abstract
Indicator-based tools are widely used for the assessment of farm sustainability, but analysts still face methodological and conceptual issues, including data availability, the complexity of the concept of sustainability and the heterogeneity of agricultural systems. This study contributes to this debate through the [...] Read more.
Indicator-based tools are widely used for the assessment of farm sustainability, but analysts still face methodological and conceptual issues, including data availability, the complexity of the concept of sustainability and the heterogeneity of agricultural systems. This study contributes to this debate through the illustration of a procedure for farm sustainability assessment focussed on the case study of the South Milan Agricultural Park, Italy. The application is based on a set of environmental, social and economic indicators retrieved from the literature review. The framework is based on three main steps: (i) Data collection mainly through interviews with farmers and institutions; (ii) data elaboration through an aggregative structure; and (iii) score analysis. The latter step includes a descriptive analysis that allows a comparison among farms or groups of farms and a principal components analysis that helps to confirm the dimensions in which indicators were previously included (components). Results derived from the sampled farms show that the framework can provide easy-to-read results useful at different levels. The study highlighted the procedures for the framework construction that is compatible with the region’s context and objectives, using an analytical approach that aims at the use of balanced features of availability and reliability of data. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability Indicators for Environment Management)
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Article
Ranking of Sustainability Indicators for Assessment of the New Housing Development Projects: Case of the Baltic States
Resources 2017, 6(4), 55; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources6040055 - 13 Oct 2017
Cited by 24 | Viewed by 4585
Abstract
Sustainable development is inconceivable without healthy real estate market. A housing project can be regarded as sustainable only when all the dimensions of sustainability (environmental, economic, and social) are dealt with. There has been an increased interest in using sustainability indicators for evaluating [...] Read more.
Sustainable development is inconceivable without healthy real estate market. A housing project can be regarded as sustainable only when all the dimensions of sustainability (environmental, economic, and social) are dealt with. There has been an increased interest in using sustainability indicators for evaluating the impacts of the new development projects. Although international literature is rich in sustainability assessments, there are no tools developed for assessment of new residential projects in the specific context of the Baltic States. Therefore, the aim of this article is to fill this gap and to propose an integrated, hierarchically structured system of sustainability indicators to be used for assessment of the new housing development projects. This aim is achieved through accomplishing three objectives. First, based on a review of literature related to assessing building project performance and sustainable development in construction, the paper proposes an original hierarchically structured system of sustainability indicators suitable for the Baltic context. Second, based on a survey of experts, significances of criteria are estimated by the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) method. Finally, paper proposes recommendations to government authorities and real estate developers as to how to enhance the performance of new residential projects according to the principles of sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability Indicators for Environment Management)
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Article
Improving the Sustainability of Farming Practices through the Use of a Symbiotic Approach for Anaerobic Digestion and Digestate Processing
Resources 2017, 6(4), 50; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources6040050 - 26 Sep 2017
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 4280
Abstract
The dairy sector in the Netherlands aims for a 30% increase in efficiency and 30% carbon dioxide emission reduction compared to the reference year of 1990, and a 20% share of renewable energy, all by the year 2020. Anaerobic Digestion (AD) can play [...] Read more.
The dairy sector in the Netherlands aims for a 30% increase in efficiency and 30% carbon dioxide emission reduction compared to the reference year of 1990, and a 20% share of renewable energy, all by the year 2020. Anaerobic Digestion (AD) can play a substantial role in achieving these aims. However, results from this study indicate that the AD system is not fully optimized in combination with farming practices regarding sustainability. Therefore, the Industrial Symbiosis concept, combined with energy and environmental system analysis, Life Cycle Analysis and modeling is used to optimize a farm-scale AD system on four indicators of sustainability (i.e., energy efficiency, carbon footprint, environmental impacts and costs). Implemented in a theoretical case, where a cooperation of farms share biomass feedstocks, a symbiotic AD system can significantly lower external energy consumption by 72 to 92%, carbon footprint by 71 to 91%, environmental impacts by 68 to 89%, and yearly expenditures by 56 to 66% compared to a reference cooperation. The largest reductions and economic gains can be achieved when a surplus of manure is available for upgrading into organic fertilizer to replace fossil fertilizers. Applying the aforementioned symbiotic concept to the Dutch farming sector can help to achieve the stated goals indicated by the Dutch agricultural sector for the year 2020. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability Indicators for Environment Management)
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Article
Bacterial Pathogen Occurrence and Persistence in Livestock Mortality Biopiles
Resources 2017, 6(4), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources6040049 - 26 Sep 2017
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3277
Abstract
Properly managed biopiles can be used for slaughterhouse-residual degradation and bacterial pathogen inactivation, which otherwise represent a major health risk in the environment. Biopiles were used to dispose of slaughterhouse-residuals and determine the occurrence and persistence patterns of indicators of pathogenic bacteria. The [...] Read more.
Properly managed biopiles can be used for slaughterhouse-residual degradation and bacterial pathogen inactivation, which otherwise represent a major health risk in the environment. Biopiles were used to dispose of slaughterhouse-residuals and determine the occurrence and persistence patterns of indicators of pathogenic bacteria. The indicator bacteria included the family Enterobacteriaceae, total coliforms, Escherichia coli, nalidixic acid-resistant E. coli, and Streptococcus fecalis. The slaughterhouse-residual biopiles remained static for 164 d in 2006 and 141 d in 2007. In biopile effluent samples, exponentially decreasing populations of the indicator bacteria were observed. Indicator bacteria presence in biopile and soil samples suggested their retention and persistence in, but not migration from, the media. Though the family Enterobacteriaceae, total coliforms, and Escherichia coli shared behavioral correlations, they exhibited different fates in all media compared to S. fecalis, which was observed to persist and re-grow. The behavior of inoculated nalidixic acid-resistant E. coli suggested that inactivation was the primary process in the biopiles. However, the biopiles constituted continual sources of the indicator bacteria due to their persistence in isolated and protected locations, and changes in dominant species. While biopiling slaughterhouse-residuals was effective to inactivate >99% (log reductions) of indicator bacteria, tertiary methods and biopiling phases should be employed to ensure inactivation of pathogenic bacteria in animal waste biopiles. The fate of bacterial indicators in this system exhibited trends not-as-yet observed for animal waste biopiling activities, which generates numerous questions for further research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability Indicators for Environment Management)
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Article
Using Social, Economic and Land-Use Indices to Build a Local Sustainability Index in a Mining Region of the Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico
Resources 2017, 6(3), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/resources6030042 - 28 Aug 2017
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3721
Abstract
Ore mining has served as a predictor of economic wellbeing since it brought development to countries. However, these benefits do not always extend to all localities that comprised the center of this industry. This paper examined the contribution of mining to local communities. [...] Read more.
Ore mining has served as a predictor of economic wellbeing since it brought development to countries. However, these benefits do not always extend to all localities that comprised the center of this industry. This paper examined the contribution of mining to local communities. An index of local sustainability was constructed based on economic, social, and land-use data from twelve localities where mining and forestry are their major economic activities. Land-use variables were obtained from Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM 5) images for 2000, and Landsat Operational Land Imager (OLI8) for 2014, while the socio-economic variables were collected in twelve localities with an 85-question survey. A sustainability index was developed for each group of variables—economic (ESI), social (SSI) and land-use sustainability index (LUSI)—to further build a local sustainability index (LSI). Three localities showed the highest ESI (0.61, 0.53 and 0.43) and SSI (0.90, 0.79 and 0.78), while two localities had the lowest values in the ESI and SSI. In contrast, the highest value of LUSI was found in two other different localities and in one with lower SSI. Income from mining activities is positively associated with the ESI and SSI, but there was no evidence of linear association with the LUSI. A local index of sustainability provides useful information for planning and development strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability Indicators for Environment Management)
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