“What can be measured can be managed?”: But can we measure and can we manage? Linking theories of sustainability assessment and sustainability transitions

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsScientific


    Research Question: The aim of the paper is to consider, how could research on sustainability assessment and sustainability transitions be brought closer to each other, in order to benefit from both of them? Theoretical Framework: Sustainability assessment and sustainability transitions are both interdisciplinary approaches that aim to guide our production and consumption habits towards more sustainable trajectories. If used together, these approaches could create a powerful combination of theories and methods in addressing current sustainability challenges. However, the research and use of these theories seems to be separated. While the scope of sustainability assessment studies is often focused mainly on the environmental aspects (e.g. Sala et al. 2012), the transition studies often focus on other aspects of sustainable development, namely socio-economic, technological and institutional aspects and/or the governance of these (van den Bergh et al. 2011). A common aspect and interest for both approaches is the interest in analysing life cycle impacts, avoiding burden shifting and unwanted second-order effects in the context of environmental innovations and technologies. Methods: The paper aims to combine lessons learnt from several research and development projects in which sustainability assessment was applied as part of product and technology development. Findings from the projects are complemented using frameworks from transition management literature, considering the potential and challenges in linking these two approaches together. Findings: In order to understand and to manage the complex and interlinked sustainability challenges, interdisciplinary and comprehensive research methods and management frameworks would be needed. While a huge variety of assessment methods have been developed by the research community, these may have little change to spread for use in practice. Findings from Loorbach et al. (2010) point out that transition management could provide an approach that could be used for exploring new business strategies leading to transitions towards more sustainable systems. But a practical challenge seems to be, how can aspects requiring long-term thinking be integrated within daily decision-making, which is often guided by short-term economic impacts? Is it possible to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and to create frameworks that would allow measuring and managing complicated issues like sustainable development as part of streamlined business decision-making?
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCorporate Responsibility Research Conference CRRC 2018
    Subtitle of host publicationBook of abstracts
    PublisherUniversity of Leeds Business School KEDGE
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
    MoE publication typeNot Eligible
    EventCorporate Responsibility Research Conference 2018: Engaging Business and Consumers for Sustainable - University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
    Duration: 12 Sept 201814 Sept 2018
    Conference number: 13


    ConferenceCorporate Responsibility Research Conference 2018
    Abbreviated titleCRRC 2018
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    • sustainability assessment
    • sustainability transitions
    • management


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