Special Issue "Sustainability as a Multi-criteria Concept: New Developments and Applications"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Sustainability and Applications".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Luis Diaz-Balteiro
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Forest and Environmental Engineering and Management, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Madrid 28040, Spain
Interests: forest management; forest sustainability; multi-criteria decision-making techniques; industrial forest plantations; non-timber forest products; forest economics
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Jacinto González-Pachón
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Artificial Intelligence, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Interests: participatory decision-making, aggregation of preferences, negotiation, multi-criteria decision-making
Prof. Dr. Carlos Romero
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Forest and Environmental Engineering and Management, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Interests: economic optimization, multiple criteria, environment sustainable management.

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Sustainability is an old concept born in the 18th century in the field of forestry within a mono-functionality perspective. This concept has considerably evolved in the last few years towards a multi-functionality context with applications in practically all areas of economic interest. On the other hand, modern sustainability is a complex problem for two types of reasons: a) The multiplicity of functions of very different nature involved in the process and b) The manner in which different segments of the society or stakeholders perceive the relative importance of these functions.

Therefore, a realistic approach to dealing with sustainability issue requires taking into consideration multiple criteria of different nature (economic, environmental, and social), in many cases within a participatory decision-making framework. This Special Issue aims to encourage works in both theoretical and applied fields dealing with different issues of sustainability with the help of a modern multiple-criteria decision-making theory and a single or several stakeholders involved in the decision-making process.

Prof. Dr. Luis Diaz-Balteiro
Prof. Dr. Jacinto González-Pachón
Prof. Dr. Carlos Romero
Guest Editors

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. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly 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 1800 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

  • Multiple Criteria Decision Making
  • Indicators and Synthetic Indices
  • Sustainability Measurement.
  • Rankings in terms of Sustainability
  • Environmental and Natural Resources Economics
  • Collective Decision Making

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Building a Composite Indicator to Measure Environmental Sustainability Using Alternative Weighting Methods
Sustainability 2020, 12(11), 4398; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114398 (registering DOI) - 27 May 2020
Abstract
Environmental sustainability in agriculture can be measured through the construction of composite indicators. However, this is a challenging task because these indexes are heavily dependent on how the individual base indicators are weighted. The main aim of this paper is to contribute to [...] Read more.
Environmental sustainability in agriculture can be measured through the construction of composite indicators. However, this is a challenging task because these indexes are heavily dependent on how the individual base indicators are weighted. The main aim of this paper is to contribute to the existing literature regarding the robustness of subjective (based on experts’ opinions) weighting methods when constructing a composite indicator for measuring environmental sustainability at the farm level. In particular, the study analyzes two multi-criteria techniques, the analytic hierarchy process and the recently developed best-worst method, as well as the more straightforward point allocation method. These alternative methods have been implemented to empirically assess the environmental performance of irrigated olive farms in Spain. Data for this case study were collected from a panel of 22 experts and a survey of 99 farms. The results obtained suggest that there are no statistically significant differences in the weights of the individual base indicators derived from the three weighting methods considered. Moreover, the ranking of the sampled farms, in terms of their level of environmental sustainability measured through the composite indicators proposed, is not dependent on the use of the different weighting methods. Thus, the results support the robustness of the three weighting methods considered. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Weak or Strong Sustainability in Rural Land Use Planning? Assessing Two Case Studies through Multi-Criteria Analysis
Sustainability 2020, 12(6), 2422; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12062422 - 19 Mar 2020
Abstract
This paper addresses the debate regarding weak versus strong sustainability in the field of rural land use planning. Both concepts correspond to opposing paradigms on sustainability and both their fundamentals of economic roots and comparative analyses from a theoretical point of view enjoy [...] Read more.
This paper addresses the debate regarding weak versus strong sustainability in the field of rural land use planning. Both concepts correspond to opposing paradigms on sustainability and both their fundamentals of economic roots and comparative analyses from a theoretical point of view enjoy a contrasting trajectory. However, their inclusion in land use planning has been an issue not sufficiently studied despite their relevance in the field of local development and sustainability. The aim of this study is to shed light on this gap by exploring the assessment of the degree of sustainability in rural land use planning. To this end, two case studies involving forestry in the Basque Country (Spain) have been analyzed based on a multi-criteria analysis technique. As a result, we have observed the importance of setting thresholds in the valuations of the criteria, as well as the effect of varying such thresholds above the compensability degree. Full article
Open AccessArticle
A Benefit–Cost Analysis of Food and Biodegradable Waste Treatment Alternatives: The Case of Oita City, Japan
Sustainability 2020, 12(5), 1916; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12051916 - 03 Mar 2020
Abstract
As the generation of food scrap, kitchen, and biodegradable wastes increases, the proper handling of these wastes is becoming an increasingly significant concern for most cities in Japan. A substantial fraction of food and biodegradable waste (FBW) ends up in the incinerator. Therefore, [...] Read more.
As the generation of food scrap, kitchen, and biodegradable wastes increases, the proper handling of these wastes is becoming an increasingly significant concern for most cities in Japan. A substantial fraction of food and biodegradable waste (FBW) ends up in the incinerator. Therefore, an analytic hierarchy process (AHP) benefit–cost analysis technique was employed in this study to compare different FBW treatment technologies and select the most appropriate FBW disposal technology for Oita City. The four FBW treatment options considered were those recommended by the Japanese Food Waste Recycling Law: anaerobic digestion, compost, landfill, and incineration, which is currently in use. The fundamental AHP was separated into two hierarchy structures for benefit analysis and cost analysis. The criteria used in these two analyses were value added, safety, efficiency, and social benefits for benefit analysis, and cost of energy, cost of operation and maintenance, environmental constraints, and disamenity for cost analysis. The results showed that anaerobic digestion had the highest overall benefit while composting had the least cost overall. The benefit–cost ratio result showed that anaerobic digestion is the most suitable treatment alternative, followed by composting and incineration, with landfill being the least favored. The study recommends that composting could be combined with anaerobic digestion as an optimal FBW management option in Oita City. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Becoming Carbon Neutral in Costa Rica to Be More Sustainable: An AHP Approach
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 737; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020737 - 20 Jan 2020
Abstract
We propose addressing an organization’s adoption of an environmental certification as a multicriteria problem considering environmental sustainability as well as economic and strategic aspects. Our methodological approach uses the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP), which we use in an empirical application to analyze the [...] Read more.
We propose addressing an organization’s adoption of an environmental certification as a multicriteria problem considering environmental sustainability as well as economic and strategic aspects. Our methodological approach uses the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP), which we use in an empirical application to analyze the adoption decision of several Costa Rican firms and institutions. Firstly, we select a set of economic, strategic, and environmental criteria that seem relevant for the organization’s direction. We select these criteria according to our literature review and a series of face-to-face interviews with scholars and companies’ managers. As an environmental certification, we focus on Carbon Neutral (CN), which is a domestic certification aimed at reducing or offsetting carbon emissions. For the sake of comparison, we also consider ISO 14001, which is a well-known international standard aimed at compliance with environmental norms. We conduct the AHP analysis using the answers given by 24 companies and institutions, which in aggregate terms, give CN a higher score than ISO 14001. This result is mainly due to the fact that CN ranks above ISO 14001 when attending to environmental sustainability, although ISO 14001 tends to be preferred in economic and strategic terms. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
A Process Oriented MCDM Approach to Construct a Circular Economy Composite Index
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 618; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020618 - 15 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The purpose of this contribution is to develop a Circular Economy Composite indicator to benchmark EU countries performance. Europe is at the forefront of the global transition towards a sustainable and circular economy. To this end, the European Commission has launched in 2015 [...] Read more.
The purpose of this contribution is to develop a Circular Economy Composite indicator to benchmark EU countries performance. Europe is at the forefront of the global transition towards a sustainable and circular economy. To this end, the European Commission has launched in 2015 a Circular Economy Action Plan including a monitoring framework to measure progress and to assess the effectiveness of initiatives towards the circular economy in the European Union (EU) and Member States. Still, this monitoring framework lacks a composite indicator at the national level to aggregate the circular economy dimensions into a single summary indicator. Although there is a wide range of sustainability composite indicators, no aggregate circular economy index exits to this date. We use a multi-criteria approach to construct a circular economy composite index based on TOPSIS (Technique for Order Preferences by Similarity to Ideal Solutions) methodology. In addition, we introduce a novel aggregation methodology for building a composite indicator where different levels of compensability for the distances to the ideal and anti-ideal (or negative-ideal) values of each indicator are considered. In order to illustrate the advantages of this proposal, we have applied it to evaluate the Circular Economy performance of EU Member States for the year 2016. This proposal can be a valuable tool for identifying areas in which the countries need to concentrate their efforts to boost their circular economy performance. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Quantifying the Sustainability of Products and Suppliers in Food Distribution Companies
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 5875; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11215875 - 23 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Supplier evaluation is a relevant task of supply chain management where multicriteria methods make great contributions to manufacturing industries. This is not the case in food distribution companies, which have a key role in providing safe and affordable food to society. The purpose [...] Read more.
Supplier evaluation is a relevant task of supply chain management where multicriteria methods make great contributions to manufacturing industries. This is not the case in food distribution companies, which have a key role in providing safe and affordable food to society. The purpose of this research is to measure the sustainability of products and suppliers in food distribution companies through a multiple criteria approach. Firstly, the system proposed provides indicators to qualify products and assess the food quality, using the compensatory Multi-Attribute Utility Theory (MAUT) model. Secondly, these indicators are included in supplier evaluation, which takes economic, environmental, and social criteria into account. MAUT and Preference Ranking Organisation Method for Enrichment Evaluation (PROMETHEE), a non-compensatory method, are used for supplier evaluation. This approach has been validated for fresh food in a supermarket chain, mainly using historical data. Partial indicators, such as food safety scores, together with global indicators of suppliers, inform the most appropriate decisions and the most appropriate relations between companies and providers. Poor performance in food safety can lead to the disqualification of some suppliers. MAUT is good for qualifying products and is easy to apply at the operational level in logistic platforms, while PROMETHEE is more suitable for supplier segmentation, as it helps to identify supplier strengths and weaknesses. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Supporting Europe’s Energy Policy Towards a Decarbonised Energy System: A Comparative Assessment
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4010; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154010 - 24 Jul 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
The European Union (EU) aims to prepare its strategy and infrastructure for further decarbonisation of its energy system in the longer term towards 2050. Recent political discussions and research interest focus on ways to accelerate the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies with [...] Read more.
The European Union (EU) aims to prepare its strategy and infrastructure for further decarbonisation of its energy system in the longer term towards 2050. Recent political discussions and research interest focus on ways to accelerate the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies with respect to the targets set for 2030 and 2050. However, the diverse options available that are to be implemented, are policy sensitive and need careful comparative assessment. This paper presents a multi-criteria approach based on an extension of the Preference Ranking Organization METHod for Enrichment of Evaluations (PROMETHEE) method for group decision-making that incorporates fuzzy set theory in order to evaluate alternative transformation pathways for achieving a sustainable energy system in EU. This assessment aims at providing a direction towards a most preferable pathway concept that should be taken into account by a future model-based analysis of the necessary transformation of our energy sector. The results obtained could support policymakers in drawing effective recommendations based on the findings. The added value of this analysis to policymakers is its contribution to plan climate and energy strategies towards a low-carbon transition pathway by using the information of this approach and prioritizing uncertainties through an environmental and energy perspective. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Sustainability in Forest Management Revisited Using Multi-Criteria Decision-Making Techniques
Sustainability 2019, 11(13), 3645; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133645 - 02 Jul 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Since its origins, the idea of sustainability has always been linked to forest management. However, nowadays, sustainable forest management has usually been approached by defining a set of criteria and indicators. This paper aims to address sustainability in forest management including a set [...] Read more.
Since its origins, the idea of sustainability has always been linked to forest management. However, nowadays, sustainable forest management has usually been approached by defining a set of criteria and indicators. This paper aims to address sustainability in forest management including a set of criteria encompassing the most common decisions: whether the stands are even or uneven-aged, and the optimal silviculture that should be applied in each stand. For this purpose, a lexicographic goal programming model with two priority levels has been defined, into which six different criteria are integrated. Each criterion corresponds to a particular pillar (economic, technical, or environmental). Furthermore, also incorporated into the model are the preferences of diverse stakeholders, both for the criteria considered in the analysis and for the most suitable silvicultural alternatives to be applied in each stand. This methodology has been applied to a case study in Spain, and the results show much more attractive solutions than the current forest management planning, allowing the obtainment of multi-aged systems that could be favourable for other ecosystem services. Full article
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