Measuring the Sustainability of Cities: A Survey-Based Analysis of the Use of Local Indicators

We analyze 17 studies of the use of sustainable development indicators (SDI) in an urban setting. The analysis reveals a lack of consensus not only on the conceptual framework and the approach favored, but also on the selection and optimal number of indicators. First, by performing different classifications and categorizations of SDI we identify problems inherent in territorial practices that use SDI. Second, we argue that the lack of consensus in several steps of the creation of SDI stems notably from the ambiguity in the definitions of sustainable development, objectives for the use of such indicators, the selection method and the accessibility of qualitative and quantitative data. Third, we propose a selection strategy for SDI through which we demonstrate the need to adopt a parsimonious list of SDI covering the sustainable development components and their constituent categories as broadly as possible while minimizing the number of indicators retained.
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