Comparing region-specific sustainability assessments through indicator systems: feasible or not?

A. van Zeijl*, Ludovico Ferraguto, Pietro Caratti

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Numerous indices help us to compare country and local performance in the field of human development, globalization and sustainable development. Obvious problems arise, such as data availability and data quality. A less obvious issue is that such sets and indices do not permit the inclusion of specific characteristics or discourses that are important in a country or region. This paper investigates the possibility of comparing regional sustainability assessments in four case studies, where the indicators vary from region to region, but the method of making the assessment is similar. The concepts of weak and strong comparability were used in this analysis. Comparability of sustainable development between different regions is not an issue of rigid comparison of indicator by indicator. It should take into account regional specifics. The resulting shift from strong to weak comparability should not be seen as a lessening of the quality of the assessment and decreasing comparability. Rather than focusing on individual indicators within frameworks that do not permit inclusion of regional developments, this approach allows to look at the broader picture of regional dynamics. It reveals specific regional weaknesses that need attention, and possible areas for building alliances between regions, thus creating a more sustainable Europe.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)475-486
    Number of pages12
    JournalEcological Economics
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2011


    • Comparability
    • Comparison
    • Indicators
    • MODELS
    • Regional
    • SCALE
    • Sustainable development


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