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Sustainability appraisal: jack of all trades, master of none?

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Sustainable development is a commonly quoted goal for decision making and supports a large number of other discourses. Sustainability appraisal has a stated goal of supporting decision making for sustainable development. We suggest that the inherent flexibility of sustainability appraisal facilitates outcomes that often do not adhere to the three goals enshrined in most definitions of sustainable development: economic growth, environmental protection and enhancement, and the wellbeing of the human population. Current practice is for sustainable development to be disenfranchised through the interpretation of sustainability, whereby the best alternative is good enough even when unsustainable. Practitioners must carefully and transparently review the frameworks applied during sustainability appraisal to ensure that outcomes will meet the three goals, rather than focusing on a discourse that emphasises one or more goals at the expense of the other(s).
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Keywords: ALTERNATIVES; DECISION MAKING; DISCOURSES; ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE; SUSTAINABILITY APPRAISAL; SUSTAINABILITY INDICATORS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2009

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