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Additional measures of progress for Scotland: an analysis of the issues and problems associated with aggregate/composite indicators of sustainability

Graham, Janine and McGregor, Peter and Swales, Kim and Turner, Karen (2007) Additional measures of progress for Scotland: an analysis of the issues and problems associated with aggregate/composite indicators of sustainability. Scottish Executive, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Abstract

the purpose of this paper is to consider the broad set of issues and problems associated with adopting aggregate measures of sustainability. We do this by first considering what we mean when we talk about 'sustainable development' in a policy context and the role that we want sustainability indicators to play. Two broad types of sustainability are identified and we argue that the role of sustainability indicators depends on which type we are concerned with. This also proves to have a bearing on many of the problems and issues commonly associated with composite or aggregate indicators. In order to consider these problems and issues systematically we initially abstract from examination of any specific candidate. Of course GDP is an aggregate measure, involving valuing output at prices that, in perfect markets, reflect the valuations of individuals. indicators. However, in the latter stages of the paper we illustrate our analysis with a number of candidate measures of sustainability.