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Pluralism in practice

Pope, J. and Morrison-Saunders, A. (2013) Pluralism in practice. In: Bond, A., Morrison-Saunders, A. and Howitt, R., (eds.) Sustainability Assessment Pluralism, Practice and Progress. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Oxon, UK, pp. 100-114.

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Drawing on examples from our experience we explore some of the dimensions of pluralism that typically manifest in sustainability assessment practice. We build on the definition of pluralism provided in the Foreword to this book: 'the different interpretations which exist of a number of key issues relating to the outcomes of sustainability assessment' and other notions of sustainability assessment explored in previous chapters such as effectiveness, time horizons, spatial scales and legal processes.

The practice of sustainability assessment is pluralistic by definition, because sustainability itself is a contested concept (Davison, 2001). Sustainability is a broad concept that encompasses environmental, social and economic dimensions, with the result that different groups and individuals will have different views about the relative importance of these dimensions and the specific issues within them. Furthermore, because the practice of sustainability assessment is still in relatively early stages of evolution so there are also alternative views of what sustainability assessment actually is and what it should be as a tool to promote sustainable decision-making.

All of these issues arise in the conduct of almost any sustainability assessment process, usually manifested as differences in opinion of various stakeholders in the process. Much of this chapter therefore focuses on stakeholder and community engagement in sustainability assessment. It is important to note, however, that stakeholders internal to an organisation conducting a sustainability assessment are at least as important as the external stakeholders with whom the organisation engages. In both internal and external engagement processes, pluralism must be acknowledged, navigated and ultimately embraced. In this chapter we consider how to deal with pluralism in practice and also consider why pluralism is actually essential for effective sustainability assessment practice.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Copyright: © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group
Publisher's Website:
Notes: Chapter 7
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