Eco-innovation & Eco-efficiency new indicators setting depends on several factors that most of times are not taken into account. Thus, although public and private sectors are being progressively adopting the principles of sustainable development, they often lack of comparable and reliable information on sustainability performance. In practice there are many interpretations of sustainability that can change from region to region. Additionally, data is often scarce and uncertain, the policy process is complex, and most sustainability impact assessments only consider the factors that are easy to measure.
In order to unify these points of view, a consortium of Universities, Research Institutes and Policy Makers, leaded by an Spanish environmental consulting company, TAU Consultora Ambiental, S.L., has unified different sustainability indicators to have a general software tool for analysing sustainable development at the regional level. Stakeholders from Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey and Spain have been involved. The project was funded under the Sixth Framework programme (FP6).
The developed framework combines sustainability indicators with a System Thinking and System Dynamics modelling approach in order to develop a common EU methodology for sustainability indicators at the regional scale to monitor progress towards Sustainable Development. Earlier System Dynamics approaches for Sustainability development have been used, involving not only qualitative factors but also quantitative ones. The developed model has overcome the most common difficulties in sectorial integration, and has potential for an integrated representation of sustainability development at the regional level, since the methodology itself forces to follow an holistic system view, which gets to the causes of environmental problems instead of just measuring their symptoms. Additionally, each of the indicators has been structured in a hierarchical structure, so entering specific regional indicators doesn’t affect the comparison of indicators between regions. This is possible because the influence of any indicator on the others is incorporated to the system as an evaluation criterion of the observed trends.
The framework has been integrated in a toolkit for the analysis of sustainable development at regional scale, which is composed of four elements: a first one that scopes of a sustainability issue, and a second one that applies mapping for identifying the qualitative factors. Afterwards, a third module models a full quantitative dynamic analysis, adaptable to any region. Finally a fourth module provides the most significant indicators for dissemination of information. The toolkit, which belongs to the coordinator, has been tested in a set of case studies around Europe, showing practical applications for strategic planning, evaluation, training and communication.
From the project a set of methodologies has been obtained, that have been assimilated by each of the partners as part of their “field of expertise”. For example, the methodologies have been applied for the analysis of impact of the actual transport policy on sustainability in several Spanish regions and South America regions. On the other hand, the Toolkit software prototype should be improved in order to be properly commercialized. So it reaches a level 8 in the TRL scale.