Sustainability assessment: The role of indicators

Tomás Ramos, Sara Moreno Pires

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


There are many ways to assess sustainable development, each of which provides potentially useful, though different, insights for distinct audiences. Despite the abundance, specific features and diversity of methods and tools for assessing sustainability, indicators are one of the most used approaches. In fact, sustainability indicators, have been at the forefront of many political, academic, scientific, and community debates for the past decades. Nevertheless, there is a dearth of research on synthesizing indicator approaches, frameworks, trade-offs, advantages, and drawbacks, at different operational and strategic scales and contexts. Therefore, the aim of this chapter is first to develop an integrative analysis of existing sustainability indicator approaches, frameworks, and different initiatives in scope and scale. In the second place, it aims to present insights and critical dilemmas about how indicators could be adopted and tailored for higher education institutions that want to assess sustainability performance. The roles and potential values of sustainability indicators should be clarified; more than “empty” or “miraculous” assessment tools, they need to be considered as steering processes able to change organizational and cultural dimensions of higher education institutions, their education and research structures, and the way they relate to society.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainability Assessment Tools in Higher Education Institutions
Subtitle of host publicationMapping Trends and Good Practices Around the World
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)978-331902375-5
ISBN (Print)978-331902374-8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Higher education
  • Indicators
  • Stakeholder’s engagement
  • Sustainability assessment


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