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Conflicting goals of sustainability

In his doctoral thesis Marc Dusseldorp develops a completely new perspective on the way to deal with conflicting goals of sustainability. Instead of decision-making or weighing procedures the ITAS researcher focuses on a scenario-based assessment.
Zielkonflikte der Nachhaltigkeit
Source: J.B. Metzler

Sustainable development is a controversial concept – justifiably so, because the questions which are discussed in the respective debates are of fundamental importance for social coexistence. However, sustainability conflicts are not always an indicator for a fruitful dispute. This is true, for example, if sustainability goals are depicted as incompatible even though their incompatibility is not proven, or if sustainability decisions are understood as unsolvable by argumentative means, thus causing blocks to action.

With his doctoral thesis Marc Dusseldorp wants to contribute to a better understanding of sustainability conflicts and thus to a successful sustainability-oriented practice. His focus is on the analysis of the Integrative Concept of Sustainable Development which was developed at ITAS (short version as PDF). The ITAS scientist concentrates on an aspect which has so far been neglected in the existing works on the theory of sustainability and at the same time turns out to be a crucial factor for solving the problem of conflicting goals: the question whether sustainability norms have to be understood as principles (which can be traded off) or as rules (which cannot be traded off).

The result shows that actors should not understand and apply the concept of sustainability as a system of principles but as a system of rules. Dusseldorp ties the fact that a popular intuition is diametrically opposed to this result to an unfortunate series of events, which originate especially from an ambiguous terminology. Among other things, it has to be clearly differentiated between the assessment of political or technological measures (“Which contribution do renewable energies provide to a sustainable development?”) and assessments of the societal situation (“What is the state of sustainable development in Germany?”). In his thesis the ITAS scientist developed a multi-level procedure for the practice which is based on an approach where the measures to be assessed are embedded into sustainability scenarios. (31.03.2017)

Bibliographic data:

Dusseldorp, Marc
Zielkonflikte der Nachhaltigkeit. Zur Methodologie wissenschaftlicher Nachhaltigkeitsbewertung. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler 2017
Information by the publishing house – Description dissertation project