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Bond, A., Morrison-Saunders, A. and Howitt, R. (2013) Conclusions. In: Bond, A., Morrison-Saunders, A. and Howitt, R., (eds.) Sustainability Assessment Pluralism, Practice and Progress. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Oxon, UK, pp. 263-270.

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Sustainability assessment is a vibrant and engaging activity that seeks direct actions and decisions towards sustainability. It can be applied to a wide range of activities and involves a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Sustainability assessment is challenging with respect to theory, process and practice. But equally it is a rewarding and essential undertaking to initiate the necessary shift towards positive sustainability behaviours.

Like the fields of impact assessment from which it builds, sustainability assessment is intended to change things. Fundamentally, it is a way of evaluating decisions, projects and processes that allows decision makers in governments, companies and communities to secure outcomes and opportunities that shift a range of human actions away from paths of demonstrably unsustainable – and therefore inappropriate – relationships with and impacts on natural and social systems. Given the dynamics of both natural and human systems, of course, sustainability assessment cannot give simple guarantees that a particular decision, project or proposal will be ‘sustainable’. Not only does the context of pluralism mean that the content of concepts such as ‘sustainability’ will always be socially, culturally and politically contested, but also the goal of sustainability itself is a moving target. Sustainability is not a state that once achieved could be checked off as ‘done’ and left behind. Sustainability assessment offers tools and processes to monitor the extent to which human decisions are producing or contributing to unsustainability, and the efficacy of efforts to be sustainable at various spatial and temporal scales specified as relevant in a particular context.

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 17
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