Assessing social sustainability: social sustainability and its multicriteria assessment in a sustainability scenario for Germany

Spangenberg, J., Omann, I. (2006)
In: International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development 2006 – Vol. 1, No.4 pp. 318 – 348


Social sustainability is a qualitative criterion, which has to be applied to different domains, i.e., the economy, society and the population. It is challenged by current political and economic developments. Based on a German study comprising discourse-derived narratives and extensive modelling, this paper demonstrates how the social sustainability of strategies for sustainable development can be evaluated. For this objective, a simplified form of ‘horizontal’, i.e., non-hierarchical, explorative Multicriteria Analysis (MCA) is applied. First, the social quality criteria developed by the project are used for the assessment, and secondly, criteria from the literature are applied to the same scenario. The MCA demonstrates that strategies exist, which combine economic and environmental success with social sustainability. The paper illustrates how policy impact can be assessed ex ante and subsequently be monitored. It furthermore demonstrates that – despite their rather divergent phrasing – the existing social sustainability criteria have enough in common to allow for a robust assessment.

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