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Assessing Social Sustainability The Social Dimension of Sustainability in a Socio-Economic Scenario Ines Omann and Joachim H. Spangenberg Sustainable Europe Research Institute SERI Schwarzspanierstr. 4/7,
Assessing Social Sustainability The Social Dimension of Sustainability in a Socio-Economic Scenario Ines Omann and Joachim H. Spangenberg Sustainable Europe Research Institute SERI Schwarzspanierstr. 4/7, A-1090 Wien, Austria, Tel./Fax Grosse Telegraphenstr. 1, D Köln, Germany, Tel./Fax /-95 Presented at the 7th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Ecological Economics in Sousse (Tunisia), 6-9 March 2002 Abstract The social dimension of sustainable development has most often been neglected when developing future scenarios, or, at best, been dealt with as a framework condition for successful environmental sustainability strategies. However, given the long-disputed trade-off between social and environmental improvements in a market economy, environmental and social criteria must be developed and incorporated to scenario design from the very beginning and on equal footing, if a bias of the results violating the basic concept of sustainable development is to be avoided. The scenario presented reflects such integrative approach, including social sustainability criteria from the very offset. In social science, so far no consensus has emerged on what are the adequate criteria for social sustainability. Consequently, each project derives its own set of indicators and criteria specific to the research question analysed, but rarely applicable on the macro level of societies' social sustainability. For any such more general approach it is necessary to integrate criteria of different quality, and to pay due respect to their importance attributed to them by various stakeholders. Standard evaluation methodologies are not capable of handling this situation, in particular the need to simultaneously take a variety of objectives into account, the lack of a common numeraire, and the fact that no unambiguous optimum exists in multi-dimensional optimisation, but only a range of acceptable solutions can be defined. Multicriteria evaluation provides an alternative in these cases. It is applied to the scenario, first in a narrative manner, then by applying an ordinal scale for measurement. The social sustainability of the scenario is evaluated as good, but not perfect , including a sensitivity analysis. To make sure that this result is not a methodological artefact based on using the same criteria for project development and evaluation, other social sustainability criteria from different literature sources are applied to the scenario in another multicriteria evaluation. The assessment turns out to be stable even with this extended set of criteria. Key words: social dimension, sustainability scenarios, multicriteria evaluation, indicators 1 1. Introduction The concept of sustainable development has emerged as a new paradigm during the last decade. As a normative concept including social, economic, environmental and institutional objectives (UNDPCSD UN 1996, UNDSD 2000, UNECOSOC 2001) it is calling into question the orientation towards a global deregulated free trade economy with no social or environmental conditions attached (Roddick 1998). Emphasising the importance of the social and institutional dimensions thus has a double purpose: on the one hand, these dimensions are essential to the concept of sustainable development and must be respected in their own right, on the other taking them into account is a necessary precondition for obtaining the environmental and economic objectives based on broad public endorsement of the sustainability paradigm. Sustainable development is perhaps the most challenging policy concept ever developed. Its core objective a kind of ethical imperative - is to provide to everybody everywhere and at any time the opportunity to lead a dignified life in his or her respective society. This demand for a high quality of life is assumed to include a decent standard of living, social cohesion, full participation and a healthy environment (WCED 1987). Policies towards sustainability thus require! the integration of economic, social, environmental and institutional objectives into a coherent strategy safeguarding the essential interests of each dimension,! the (re-)introduction of a normative orientation towards distributional justice in and between countries into economic, trade, development and other policies, and! the extension of the policy perspective to include distant regions and future generations. The former condition requests to identify and exploit synergies and to minimise trade offs between objectives from different dimensions of sustainable development. Such an integration will not leave any of the policies involved unchanged (Hans-Boeckler-Foundation 2001), and consequently it will require a careful assessment of the given institutional setting, changing preferences and the mode and means of government and governance. The latter condition rules out the generation of externalities (social as well as environmental) to be passed on, as the global and intergenerational perspective includes all those who have to bear the burden. In the international economic debate, sustainable development is most often described as the need to maintain the stocks of human, man-made, natural and social capital (Serageldin 1997) needed by societies to generate a sustainable, i.e. Hicksian income. While there is a lot of discussion regarding the possibilities and limits of substituting these capitals against one another (Daly 1991, Pearce, Atkinson 1993), all these debates tend to focus on increasing the stock of man made capital and the degree to which other capital stocks may be reduced for this behalf. In other words, sustained growth is often implicitly assumed to be a part of the concept of sustainable development by most authors, and only a small fraction of ecological economists disagrees. In the macro-economic debate, few other economic sustainability criteria are mentioned, like innovativeness, competitiveness etc. Environmental scientists and some ecological economists take the long term perspective and point out that in a limited biophysical system as the Earth, is no subsystem can have unlimited growth without harming the other (social and environmental) subsystems, and thus undermining the basis of its own existence. This establishes the need to limit the throughput of resources through our societies in absolute terms, as these are what counts for nature. Reducing fuel consumption by a factor four is by now broadly accepted as a target for safeguarding the climate in the 21 st century (IPCC 2000), while for material flows a factor 10 reduction is considered a first indicative goal (Schmidt-Bleek 1999). For land use, only preliminary targets have been suggested so far (Spangenberg 2002c). Social sustainability focuses on the personal assets like education, skills, experience, consumption, income and employment, while institutional sustainability aims at interpersonal processes like democracy and participation (institutional mechanisms), distributional and gender equity (institutional orientations) or independent and pluralistic sources of information (organisations) (Spangenberg 2002b). Obviously institutional settings often provide the opportunity space for social sustainability to develop; as a certain overlap cannot be avoided institutional aspects will have to be taken into account when discussing social sustainability. 2 The socio-institutional challenges we are faced with on a way towards a sustainable society include (European Council 2001), but are not restricted to! the challenge of unemployment, in particular of long-term and youth unemployment,! the challenge of an ageing society, including the changing roles of elder persons,! the challenge of changing role models, in particular regarding gender,! the challenge of the future learning and knowledge society. As an overall institutional objective, an enabling society should foster participation, openness, transparency and accountability, inviting its citizens to get involved into public decision making as far as possible (United Nations 1993). In contrast, social sustainability would be more focussed on the quality of life, the possibility to sustain oneself and all dependants on the basis of one s salary, on the access to paid labour for all who want so, and for social security in times without paid work, but maybe still working for the common good (UNDPCSD 1995, Hans-Boeckler-Foundation 2001). Regarding conflicts of interest, e.g. economic growth is considered a necessary condition for providing income and employment on the one hand, while on the other sustained and unconditioned growth is considered a major threat to integrated sustainable development. These tensions, unavoidable as they are in any multi-dimensional concept, clearly illustrate that sustainable development has no unambiguously defined optimum (as it is usual when only two competing targets have to be taken into account). Instead, benchmarks need to be defined, distinguishing potentially sustainable from definitively unsustainable development trends (Spangenberg 2001). Such benchmarks are a key element for the multicriteria analysis more systematically introduced later in this paper. Social sustainability, as an independent dimension of sustainable development, and equally important as the economic or environmental dimension (United Nations 1993) still lacks broad recognition by scientists as well as by decision makers. Currently social sustainability is at best dealt with regarding the social implications of environmental politics, but not as an equally constitutive component of sustainable development (OECD 2001b, a). Social objectives are not explicitly defined, nor is their interaction with environmental and economic objectives discussed. On the other hand, social science and social policy research have developed a plethora of social objectives, strategies and measurement instruments, but with little regard for the sustainability perspective (Metzner 2000). Economic concerns are integrated (e.g. in research on poverty and unemployment), even beyond the scope of traditional economics e.g. by integrating the effects of unpaid work (Fukami 1999), but the environmental dimension is largely ignored. Sociology in general suffers from a neglect of the physical (i.e. non-social) reality (Brandt 1997), resulting in difficulties to present the wealth of available knowledge in a way suitable for integration into the sustainability perspectives. Indicators for measuring social sustainability are lacking; first proposals have been tabled, but mainly based on ad hoc indicator systems on the company (GRI 2000; Hertin et al. 2001, WBCSD 2001) or the local level (New Economics Foundation , Valentin, Spangenberg 2000). Simple and clear benchmarks helping to distinguish (potentially) sustainable patterns of social development from definitively unsustainable ones are still missing. These would have to take into account core social sustainability objectives and their interlinkage to institutional settings, economic effects and environmental impacts in a systematic manner. The Work and Environment Project Only few projects so far have undertaken to address this specific challenge, or even focus on it. According to an international overview by Grunwald and colleagues (2001) the largest and most comprehensive one to do so is the project Work and Environment (Hans-Böckler-Stiftung 2000), which despite its more narrow title covers all four dimensions of sustainability and analyses their interlinkages in scenarios, model simulations and a broad range of case studies. A foundation of the German trade unions, the Hans Böckler Foundation (HBS) has initiated and funded this project to analyse the interlinkages of social sustainability - with special emphasis on labour and health, the traditional anchor concepts in the German discourse - with economic and environmental sustainability. This includes the identification of potential synergies as well as antagonisms, and means for their reconciliation (Omann 2000). Finally, the project had to produce outlines for possible policy strategies to provide trade unions with scientifically tested strategy options for a kind of sustainability policy which respects the role of social sustainability as a dimension in its own right and on equal footing with the economic and environmental one. For this behalf the three participating scientific institutes (the German Institute for Economic Research DIW, the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy and the Science Center Berlin for the 3 Social Sciences WZB) first formulated sustainability criteria and objectives for the economic, the environmental and the social dimension from their respective disciplinary point of view. These were used throughout the project to mutually assess the results of all partners. In more than 80 case studies the interaction of these objectives was analysed, providing input to three qualitative scenarios, focussing on cost cutting, conditioned growth and policy integration. In the next step these scenarios were used as the basis for quantitative simulations, using the complex, highly disaggregated econometric model PANTA RHEI, a dynamic input-output model based on empirical data. It is part of the international INFORUM group of models, but extended to accommodate energy and material flows (Meyer et al. 1999, see also The reference scenario is less detailed as it mainly served for comparison purposes. It represents a simplified cost-cutting strategy, a policy approach that gives preference to little public intervention into the economy, salary increases below the productivity gains (i.e. more export oriented than towards strengthening the domestic demand), tax cuts and subsequent privatisation of public services. According to the intentions of their authors, both the conditioned growth and the policy integration scenario are sustainability scenarios, but with a different emphasis. The former aims at maximising economic growth while reducing CO2 emissions and maintaining social security, the latter one at simultaneously reducing unemployment, increasing dematerialisation of resource consumption, enhancing participation and providing a tax-funded basic income. Both comprise revisiting harmful subsidies, productivity based salary policies and reducing the average working time. Regarding resource taxation, the conditioned growth scenario includes a tax on CO2, while the policy integration scenario combines lower energy tax with an additional Material Input Tax MIT on all resources used, both linear taxes stepwise increasing over time (Omann 2002). Without these assumptions, social and environmental sustainability targets turned out to be out of reach in the modelling. Since the integrated policy scenario is the most ambitious one regarding social as well as environmental objectives, it will be explained in some more detail in section 3, and the social sustainability criteria developed in section 2 will be applied to in section 4 by means of a multi criteria analysis MCA (Munda et al. 1994a, Omann 2000). Section 5 concludes with an interpretation and some thoughts on the perspectives of measuring or assessing social sustainability. 2. Assessing Social Sustainability: Objectives and Indicators 2.1 The challenge Deriving social sustainability objectives and their corresponding indicators is a challenging task due to four core problems: 1. There is a significant lack of conceptual clarity. Whereas in Germany issues like labour, employment opportunities and the future of work as well as health and safety are dominating the debate, in the Netherlands consumption, gender aspects and the ageing society play a more important role, as do poverty issues in the UK, and in Scandinavia, taking the international dimension into account has a long history. On the transnational level, the European Commission has emphasised issues like employment and job creation, education and training for employability, and the labour market participation of women in the future knowledge society. 2. The complexity of the concept might not be manageable in the current institutional settings. Consequently sustainability is reduced to a kind of 21 st century environmentalism, with the non-environmental dimensions of sustainability either ignored or reduced to side effects of environmental policies to be kept under control (OECD 2001b). At best social sustainability is mentioned separately including social objectives, but not fully integrated into the sustainability framework (European Council 2001). 3. The bad experience of the 1960s makes social scientists hesitant to formulate normative targets. In order for social sustainability to be dealt with on equal footing with other dimensions of sustainable development, explicit social targets must be formulated. In the 1960s with their still quite homogenous lifestyles, strong feelings about social objectives and the belief in the capacity of public authorities to steer society developments many such objectives have been suggested, with limited public resonance or even fierce rejection as ideological strait jackets. Today, most social scientists are hesitant about this kind of approach, denouncing it as not 4 scientific and focussing their analytic capacities on small-scale issues accessible to their methodology. As a result, indicators and targets are suggested for small sections of social development, but little is said about the overall trend. The CSD, although suggesting a great many of indicators, is hesitant to formulate any explicit targets (UNDSD 2000). 4. Defining social objectives as part of an overall sustainability concept poses questions to the very basis of the current European development model, which is essentially a productivistic or fordistic model of society (Opielka 1997). It presupposes that people accept alienating working conditions for a compensation by high consumption levels. This model only counts paid work as a valuable source of income; only market transactions are considered to contribute to the standard of living. This way, the immense value of unpaid work is ignored, resulting in a systematic bias of welfare measuring against women (Spangenberg 2002a). Furthermore, the social costs of production are externalised, and the social security system is predominantly labour based, resulting in financial problems exactly in a time when it is least desirable, i.e. times of slow growth and high unemployment. So is our social security based on a model which is neither economically nor environmentally sustainable? Is it no longer affordable when broader sustainability concerns are taken into account? Despite these obstacles, and based upon the basic elements of sustainable development as pointed out by the Brundtland Commission (WCED 1987), still a number of social sustainability objectives can be derived which are elaborated in a nutshell in this paper. 2.2 Social Sustainability Criteria Sustainability is essentially an anthropocentric concept of inter- and intragenerational justice (Grunwald 2001), claiming the right to a dignified life to humans (Littig 2001). One core element is its commitment to the social cohesion of societies, the aversion against social exclusion and discrimination (including gender) and the need to foster citizens participation in public affairs. Access to social processes, and access to the benefits of the modern society for most of the population most of the time is one critical orientation, including the right to a dignified standard of living for all citizens. Social sustainability comprises every citizen s right to actively participate in his/her society as an essential element. The precondition for this is the access to the respective societies resources, including a variety of aspects: physical access demands the existence of the appropriate technical, social and institutional infrastructure, legal access calls for
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