Towards human and social sustainability indicators
Ever since the Brundtland Commission presented its report on sustainable development in 1987, various institutions have either adopted or tried to refine the approach used in the report. Currently, there is a broad collection of concepts that are often highly related to sustainable development. These concepts do not seldom include aspects like poverty and development, security issues and quality of life.
The operationalization of these concepts has resulted in a broad collection of indicators and composites of indicators, the so-called indexes. Important examples of successful operationalization are the Human Development Index and the Millennium Development Goals. Most of these collections of indicators have no, or hardly any, theoretical foundation.
Furthermore, the precise description of the underlying process that these indicators try to indicate is lacking and the availability of data seems to be the guideline for selection. Selection of indicators should be based on a list of criteria such as sensitivity to changes, transparency and redundancy. Applying the Pressure-State-Impact-Response mechanism can improve the selection and use of indicators since causal relationships are distinguished and underlying processes interlinked. Further refinement can be obtained by the use of a hierarchical representation, resulting in a transparent and traceable indicator framework. Maslow's theory of needs connects these aspects with the human/social sustainability domain. Applying this theory to the selection of indicators results in a well-founded, but still practical, collection of indicators for possible use in further depiction of social and human aspects of sustainable development.