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When experts disagree: The need to rethink indicator selection for assessing sustainability of agriculture

journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-21, 03:53 authored by Evelien de Olde, Henrik Moller, Fleur Marchand, Rich McDowellRich McDowell, Catriona MacLeod, Marc Sautier, Stephan Halloy, Andrew Barber, Jayson Benge, Christian Bockstaller, Eddie Bokkers, Imke de Boer, Katharine Legun, Isabelle LeQuellec, Charles Meffield, Frank Oudshoom, John Reid, Christian Schader, Erika Szymanski, Claus Sørensen, Jay Whitehead, Jon Manhire
Sustainability indicators are well recognized for their potential to assess and monitor sustainable development of agricultural systems. A large number of indicators are proposed in various sustainability assessment frameworks, which raises concerns regarding the validity of approaches, usefulness and trust in such frameworks. Selecting indicators requires transparent and well-defined procedures to ensure the relevance and validity of sustainability assessments. The objective of this study was to determine whether experts agree on which criteria are most important in the selection of indicators and indicator sets for robust sustainability assessments. Ranking surveys completed by experts in the Temperate Agriculture Research Network and New Zealand Sustainability Dashboard reveal a startling lack of consensus about how best to measure agricultural sustainability and call for a radical rethink about how sustainability assessments are used to ensure maximum collaboration and trust. The process by which indicators and sustainability frameworks are established could make assessments more transparent, transformative and enduring.


Funded by the New Zealand Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment's Our Land and Water National Science Challenge (Toitū te Whenua, Toiora te Wai) as part of project Indicators Working Group


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  • English

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Journal title

Environment, Development and Sustainability

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