File(s) under permanent embargo
Sustainability: meaning and measurement with application to agriculture
journal contributionposted on 2007-01-01, 00:00 authored by Mary Graham
Sustainability refers to having the ability to meet present needs without impacting on future generations to meet their needs. It incorporates social, economic and environmental aspects, and as a measure of sustainability, a range of sustainability indicators at the economy, regional, and individual level, have been suggested. However, given the complex and multidisciplinary nature of the concept, an interdisciplinary approach is necessary. Sustainability is not something that is easily measurable, and the aim of this paper is to present a conceptual framework for quantifying sustainability on the basis of social economic efficiency. According to neoclassical economic theory, economic activity will only be sustained by the private sector as long as it is profitable. However, private economic decisions do not always ensure long-term sustainability of environmental resources or production. The approach suggested here is to derive a measure of social economic efficiency as a measure of sustainability. For dairy farmers, increased productivity has been emphasized, while recognizing the need to reduce greenhouse emissions, pests and disease, nutrient run-off into the environment and degradation of the soil structure. By incorporating environmental and economic impacts, a fuller measure of efficiency, social economic efficiency, and sustainability of the farming practice can be developed.