Icône de l'outil pédagogique Process

While indicator development follows a top-down structure, the indicator selection should follow a bottom-up perspective (Wireman, 1998; Kaplan and Norton, 2001; Andersen and Fagerhaug, 2002, Engelkemeyer and Voss, 2000). Using the GOF for indicator selection, the first step should be to select the sub-themes relevant for each specific policy issue / objective (Figure 2). This approach is in line with the stepwise approach described in the European Commission’s Impact assessment guidelines (SEC (2005) 791) on how the impacts that are of interest to focus in a specific IA could be defined.

The second step should consist of checking that: (1) each theme is covered within a dimension of sustainability; (2) sub-themes are consistent with, for a given policy issue, the geographic situation (e. g. erosion is not an issue in plain regions); and (3) the related indicators are affected or/and reach a “critical” level in the assessed scenarios.

The third step should be to exclude sub-themes which are not key issues for the assessing authority or deemed to be critical for any of the consulted stakeholders. The goal based approach of structuring indicators rests on an approach to sustainability described by Hansen (1996) as “sustainability as an ability to satisfy goals”. Whereas many frameworks provide a (long) list of themes related to problems, which can be translated into goals, this framework has tried to categorize and qualify those “goals”. However, this does not mean that the goals per se are defined; this process must be done by policy makers and politicians.


Figure 2. Step-wise process for selecting indicators.



The indicator selection should be flexible and it should be done in a negotiation process between different types of actors – e.g. components of the interest group, targets of the assessing authority, with different agendas (Alkan Olsson et al, 2007, section 2.2). Stakeholders from the sector of water management may wish to focus on reduction of nitrate leaching and may propose a management option to reduce nitrogen in soil but with concomitant increased losses of climate warming gases to the air. Another example that can be given is that crop scientists have developed methods to adjust fertilization in line with crop requirements, in order to avoid nitrate leaching without taking account of the energetic cost of mineral fertilizer. Those examples illustrate clearly some trade-off between sub-themes as well as trade-offs between the three generic themes.

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