No perfect tools - New TIMBRE article published

01.02.2015 11:37

Trade-offs between sustainability and user requirements challenge land-use decisions

The EU Soil Thematic Strategy calls for the application of sustainability concepts and methods as part of an integrated policy to prevent soil degradation and to increase the re-use of brownfields. Although certain general principles have been proposed for the evaluation of sustainable development, the practical application of sustainability assessment tools (SATs) is contingent on the actual requirements of tool users, e.g. planners or investors, to pick up such instruments in actual decision making. Researcher from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ examined the normative sustainability principles that need to be taken into account in order to make sound land-use decisions between new development on greenfield sites and the regeneration of brownfields – and related these principles to empirically observed user requirements and the properties of available SATs. In this way they provide an overview of approaches to sustainability assessment. Three stylized approaches, represented in each case by a typical tool selected from the literature, are presented in the article, which has been published in the Journal for Environmental Management. These SATs are contrasted with (1) the norm-oriented Bellagio sustainability principles and (2) the requirements of three different stakeholder groups: decision makers, scientists/experts and representatives of the general public. The paper disentangles some of the inevitable trade-offs involved in seeking to implement sustainable land-use planning, i.e. between norm orientation and holism, broad participation and effective communication. It concludes with the controversial assessment that there are no perfect tools and that to be meaningful the user requirements of decision makers must take precedence over those of other interest groups in the design of SATs.

You can download the authors accepted manuscript copy here. For the final published version, refer to the following reference:

Bartke, S., R. Schwarze (2015): No perfect tools: Trade-offs of sustainability principles and user requirements in designing tools supporting land-use decisions between greenfields and brownfields, Journal of Environmental Management 153, 11-24, doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.01.040

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