DOI: 10.12924/cis2023.11010019 |Publication Date: 15 June 2023

The Criticality of Using Frameworks Designed by Consensus (FDC) to Identify and Select Criteria and Indicators to Assess Sustainability Performance of Cities and Communities

Cesar A. Poveda
School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, Robert Morris University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Capturing the various facets of sustainable development is the main objective of sustainability assess- ment studies. Scientists and practitioners use sustainable development criteria and indicators as instruments to link the theoretical definitions with the evaluation of the effectiveness of management strategies; therefore, identifying and selecting indicators are the most critical processes in evaluating the implementation of sustainable development strategies and progress toward achieving sustainability goals and objectives. The manuscript argues the need for increasing credibility in the identification and selection of criteria and indicators through stakeholder engagement, participation and management. Sustainability aims to primarily address and balance the [social, economic, environmental] needs and expectations of stakeholders; therefore, reaching consensus amongst the various groups of stakeholders became the determining factor in the design, implementation, and assessment of sustainable development strategies. Because a precise definition of sustainability that is universally agreed upon is yet to be introduced, the process of identifying and selecting indicators to assess progress toward achieving sustainable development is embedded in subjectivity and vagueness and can be easily manipulated to meet particular interests. Furthermore, the absence of rigorous and standardized methodological frameworks contributes to continuously proposing set indicators that best capture the notion of sustainable development which creates distrust in the assessment process and directly affects the credibility of the sustainability concept. Departing from acknowledging the relevance of stakeholders groups in decision-making and management processes, the manuscript identifies and discusses three credible and reliable frameworks designed by consensus (FDC) to identify and select criteria and indicators to assess the sustainability performance of cities and communities: (1) ISO 37130:2018 which is complemented by ISO 37122:2019, (2) United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) with focus on Goal 11, and (3) customized frameworks for sustainable cities (CFSS). To minimize subjectivity and strengthen credibility, the manuscript also makes the case for the need of embedding FDC into sustainability assessment processes to identify and select criteria and indicators. Because of the methodology adopted for their development, FDC provide scientists and practitioners with reliable and credible sources to identify and select criteria and indicators for the assessment of the sustainability performance of cities and communities.

Keywords: decision-making; liveability; quality of living; sustainability assessment; sustainability performance; sustainability criteria; sustainability indicators; sustainable cities


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