Reuse, recycling, and resource management have been key sustainability concepts and project-focuses. The Triple Bottom Line (TBL), three pillar approach, in sustainable development considers a balance between environmental, social, and economic aspects (Elkington, 1994). In sustainability terms, actions that promote this balance, with an understanding of variation to location and time, stress a concept called full cost accounting. Supplemental to United Nations standards, TBL thinking, within a full cost accounting perspective, integrates aspects of natural and human capital as measurable ends and is not solely economically focused (i.e. as prioritized in most countries' measurement profiles). Advantages to economic growth can fund new technologies, improve quality of life and ration the use of natural resources. Conceptually, sustainability research promotes balance and fosters present and future generations; it strives to add knowledge base by innovation and, when necessary, replicative confirmation of previous research—introspective of the scientific method.
THE PATHWAY FORWARD
The science behind sustainability research primarily emerged from the severe global events that had and were unfolding approximately a quarter century ago; evidence from the literature exemplifies this by the large amount of concepts and techniques that have been tested and continue to be tested within its interdisciplinary fields. At present the forefront of sustainability research endeavors to adapt quantitative and qualitative sustainability concepts into methods that take into account past, present, and future pathways. Our vision of sustainability is to conduct sound, ethical, and productive research that compliments these pathways. Thus, fundamentally, we support the ideal of a cleaner, safer society with sustainable higher standards of living that excel in supporting current and future generations. From this standpoint, it is hopeful that any furthering of knowledge within sustainability and relating fields is accessible and shared to achieve maximum innovation and benefit. We focus and deliver on a broad array of sustainability research within industry, government, and academia.
Elkington, J. (1994). "Towards the Sustainable Corporation: Win-Win-Win Business Strategies for Sustainable Development", California Management Review, 36(2): 90-100.
CONSUMPTION, SUSTAINABILITY, AND WELL-BEING
There is an urgent global need to re-evaluate our consumption patterns in a more sustainable direction. The environmental impacts of consumption and the urgency to transform the ways global elites and rich countries consume have been given relatively little attention in the research or politics of sustainability. The efforts to reduce the levels, patterns, and impacts of consumption within the framework of the dominant economic growth paradigm have fostered a huge difference and over simplification in the theory and policies of sustainable consumption. For most of its brief history, research and policies have been dominated by rational choice theory, market economics, and technology positivism. The Centre is engaged with innovative research and new theoretical developments in sustainable consumption, including perspectives from social practice theory and the relationship between consumption and well-being in wealthier, developed countries.
The United States is a consumption-based economy and a consumption-driven society. Neither fact is necessarily good or bad. It is the way the United States has operated for the last century. The issues at hand is whether it can sustain high rates of consumption in an ever changing geopolitical and economic environment, and what are the consequences if it were reduced. Consumption is an economic function that is defined as the value of all goods and services bought by consumers. Leading economists determine the performance of a country in terms of consumption level and consumer dynamics. The underlying theory of a consumption-based economy is that progressively greater consumption of goods is economically beneficial. However, increasing research has pointed toward production, not consumption, as the true source of wealth. Production uses resources to create goods and services that are suitable for use or exchange in a market economy. If the United States desires a healthy economy, it will need to create the conditions under which producers (businesses as opposed to governments) can accelerate the process of creating wealth for others to consume and finance, relating, future production and entrepreneurial wealth.
INTERNATIONAL COMPARISON OF CONSUMPTION
According to The World Bank in 2020, the United States is the largest and most conspicuous consumption-based economy in the world. It leads the world with 71% consumption as a percent of US gross domestic product (GDP, the sum of all goods and services produced in the US by Americans). Other Western economies average about 60%. Emerging economies average around 35%. China, as true with many fast-developing countries, depends on government-funded investment to encourage economic expansion. Chinese households consume an expenditure of 34% where government investment is approximately 54%. Most of its government investment comes from the Chinese government via large state-owned corporations that are granted easy access to capital for development of factories, real estate, and infrastructure.
UNDERSTANDING NATURE'S BENEFITS
Nature provides humans with what they need to survive. These services include many things we take for granted, like trees purifying air, wetlands filtering water, and bees pollinating crops. Though the Earth's benefits seem free, they have enormous value that often are unaccounted for. Pricing these assets can be difficult, especially in high-paced modern society, hence the factoring in of nature can lead to more informed decision-making and management of these natural resources. More often than not, it is cost-efficient to allow nature to produce these vital ecosystem-related services (e.g., water and air purification), versus human intervention and environmentally-related engineering. Allowing for the growth of resilient ecosystems to do the work they were meant to do, invests in community resilience and relating challenges like climate change, drought, and population growth. The Centre is on the forefront of understanding ecosystem services approaches to complex, interconnected problems. We examine a number of tools that evaluate nature and try to express a co-existence based understanding of looking at environmental challenges.
ECOSYSTEM SERVICES CATEGORIES
PROVISIONING SERVICES are ecosystem services that describe the material or energy outputs from ecosystems. They include food, water and other resources.
Food: Ecosystems provide the conditions for growing food. Food comes principally from managed agro-ecosystems but marine and freshwater systems or forests also provide food for human consumption. Wild foods from forests are often underestimated.
Raw materials: Ecosystems provide a great diversity of materials for construction and fuel including wood, biofuels, and plant oils that are directly derived from wild and cultivated plant species.
Fresh water: Ecosystems play a vital role in the global hydrological cycle, as they regulate the flow and purification of water. Vegetation and forests influence the quantity of water available locally.
Medicinal resources: Ecosystems and biodiversity provide many plants used as traditional medicines as well as providing the raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. All ecosystems are a potential source of medicinal resources.
REGULATING SERVICES are the services that ecosystems provide by acting as regulators eg. regulating the quality of air and soil or by providing flood and disease control.
Local climate and air quality: Trees provide shade whilst forests influence rainfall and water availability both locally and regionally. Trees or other plants also play an important role in regulating air quality by removing pollutants from the atmosphere.
Carbon sequestration and storage: Ecosystems regulate the global climate by storing and sequestering greenhouse gases. As trees and plants grow, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and effectively lock it away in their tissues. In this way forest ecosystems are carbon stores. Biodiversity also plays an important role by improving the capacity of ecosystems to adapt to the effects of climate change.
Moderation of extreme events: Extreme weather events or natural hazards include floods, storms, tsunamis, avalanches, and landslides. Ecosystems and living organisms create buffers against natural disasters, thereby preventing possible damage. For example, wetlands can soak up flood water whilst trees can stabilize slopes. Coral reefs and mangroves help protect coastlines from storm damage.
Waste-water treatment: Ecosystems such as wetlands filter both human and animal waste and act as a natural buffer to the surrounding environment. Through the biological activity of microorganisms in the soil, most waste is broken down. Thereby pathogens (disease causing microbes) are eliminated, and the level of nutrients and pollution is reduced.
Erosion prevention and maintenance of soil fertility: Soil erosion is a key factor in the process of land degradation and desertification. Vegetation cover provides a vital regulating service by preventing soil erosion. Soil fertility is essential for plant growth and agriculture and well functioning ecosystems supply the soil with nutrients required to support plant growth.
Pollination: Insects and wind pollinate plants and trees which is essential for the development of fruits, vegetables, and seeds. Animal pollination is an ecosystem service mainly provided by insects but also by some birds and bats. Some 87 out of the 115 leading global food crops depend upon animal pollination including important cash crops such as cocoa and coffee (Klein et al., 2007).
Biological control: Ecosystems are important for regulating pests and vector borne diseases that attack plants, animals, and people. Ecosystems regulate pests and diseases through the activities of predators and parasites. Birds, bats, flies, wasps, frogs, and fungi all act as natural controls.
HABITAT OR SUPPORTING SERVICES
Habitats for species: Habitats provide everything that an individual plant or animal needs to survive: food, water, and shelter. Each ecosystem provides different habitats that can be essential for a species’ life cycle. Migratory species including birds, fish, mammals and insects all depend upon different ecosystems during their movements.
Maintenance of genetic diversity: Genetic diversity is the variety of genes between and within species populations. Genetic diversity distinguishes different breeds or races from each other thus providing the basis for locally well-adapted cultivars and a gene pool for further developing commercial crops and livestock. Some habitats have an exceptionally high number of species which makes them more genetically diverse than others and are known as biodiversity hotspots.
Recreation and mental and physical health: Walking and playing sports in green space is not only a good form of physical exercise but also lets people relax. The role that green space plays in maintaining mental and physical health is increasingly being recognized, despite difficulties of measurement.
Tourism: Ecosystems and biodiversity play an important role for many kinds of tourism which in turn provides considerable economic benefits and is a vital source of income for many countries. In 2008 global earnings from tourism summed up to USD944 billion. Cultural and ecotourism can also educate people about the importance of biological diversity.
Aesthetic appreciation and inspiration for culture, art, and design: Language, knowledge, and the natural environment have been intimately related throughout human history. Biodiversity, ecosystems, and natural landscapes have been the source of inspiration for much of our art, culture, and increasingly for science.
Spiritual experience and sense of place: In many parts of the world natural features such as specific forests, caves, or mountains are considered sacred or have a religious meaning. Nature is a common element of all major religions and traditional knowledge, and associated customs are important for creating a sense of belonging.
Klein, A. M., Vaissiere, B. E., Cane, J. H., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Cunningham, S. A., Kremen, C., and Tscharntke, T. (2007). “Importance of Pollinators in Changing Landscapes for World Crops”, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 274(1608): 303-313.
GLOBLIZATION AND INTERNATIONALIZATION
Globalization is a process that poses deep implications for development and the environment at varying levels. It opens up new possibilities but also, via local community-level norms, challenges the core notions of sustainable development. Globalization binds political, economic, social, and environmental processes together across national boundaries, continents, and cultures. Internationalization is the corporate process of globalization, marketing, and designing products and services for easy access to differing cultures and languages. Globalization implies increased flows of goods, money, and people but also of ideas and cultural expression. This has made obsolete previously dominate ideas about what development is and how to encourage it. Under globalization, the human experience has been slowly melding together, with the sharing of ideas and cohesive understanding of who are the most relevant development actors. It changes our conception of the main obstacles in sustainable development and the most relevant development interventions.
TYPES OF GLOBALIZATION
The Centre examines a number of research angles regarding the different aspects of globalization and internationalization. The main focuses are the three main types of globalization. Fittingly, the challenges for global governance of development and the environment, and the emergence of new global and regional institutions and organizations, have shifted the human experience from mere nationalistic sovereignty to a conglomerate-level of hegemony.
POLITICAL GLOBALIZATION: The concept refers to the amount of political cooperation that exists between different countries. This ties in with the belief that “umbrella” global organizations are better placed than individual states to prevent conflict. The League of Nations established after World War One was one of the pioneer establishments. Since then, global organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations (UN), and more regional organizations such as the European Union (EU) have been put together and increase the degree of political globalization in which we live.
ECONOMIC GLOBALIZATION: No national economy is an island. To varying degrees, national economies now influence one another and capital-rich invest in the poor. One who has better technology sells it to others who lack such technology. Products of an advanced country enter the markets of those countries that have demands for those products. Similarly, natural resources of developing countries are sold to developed countries due to high demand. Hence, globalization predominantly is supported by an economic process involving the transfer of economic resources form one country to another.
CULTURAL GLOABLIZATION: Culture has increasingly become a commodity. Popular books and films have international markets. English movies are seen almost in all countries. Western pop music has become popular in developing countries. The reverse flow of culture is insignificant. The flow of culture is mainly from the North to the South. In the last few years Western media has been maneuvering toward developing countries. Cultural globalization has been facilitated by the information revolution, the spread of satellite communication, telecommunication networks, information technology, and the Internet. This global flow of ideas, knowledge and values is likely to flatten out cultural differences between nations, regions and individuals. As this flow of culture is mainly from the center to the periphery, from the North to the South, and from the towns and cities to villages, it is village culture from poor countries which will be first to disintegration.
GOVERNANCE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The importance of governance has been increasingly recognized in efforts to alleviate poverty and promote environmentally-sound development. Recently the terms "governance" and "good governance" have been increasingly used in development literature. Major donors and international financial institutions often base their aid and loans on the condition that reforms ensure "good governance" are undertaken. The study of governance is concerned with the way power is exercised, at a global, national, and local level. Research on governance examines how states, multilateral organizations, private companies, investors, and other non-state actors exercise power in different institutional settings, and how this influences governance outcomes. It also examines the interplay between political, economic, socio-cultural, and institutional factors in governance processes, so as to identify their influence on development and the environment. Investigative research into the emergence, effectiveness and legitimacy of governance processes in areas significantly shaped by globalization are also linked into this research via the cycle of sustainability governance.
THE UNITED NATIONS POST-2015 DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK: SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs)
There are now widely accepted arguments that governance is of high relevance to the post-2015 development agenda: effective governance institutions and systems that are responsive to public needs deliver essential services and promote inclusive growth, while inclusive political processes ensure citizens can hold public officials to account. In addition, good governance promotes freedom from violence, fear, and crime and helps build peaceful and secure societies with the stability needed to attract and sustain development investments. A consensus is emerging to accept divergence in the way countries develop and improve their systems of governance, while reaffirming the global norms and standards agreed upon by member states. In practice, improving governance requires action in a wide range of areas, not all of which can be addressed at once, and not all can be subject of a global consensus. The challenge in integrating governance into the post-2015 development framework is to translate experience and evidence from multiple and diverse governance systems into concrete, measurable, and broadly acceptable global development goals and targets: the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME (UNDP)
The UNDP Discussion Paper on "Governance for Sustainable Development" provides an overview of the challenges and opportunities that evolve from the ongoing discussions on how best to integrate governance, rule of law, peace, and security priorities into the post-2015 development agenda, and lays out the case for why different aspects of governance, peace, and security matter for universal SDGs. From the discussions in the Open Working Group, several broad options are emerging, which are not mutually exclusive: stand-alone goals on governance, rule of law and peaceful, and stable societies; and governance as an enabler that is referenced in accompanying text, and is "mainstreamed" across other targets. Further discussion with a contributive analysis of these options and their strengths and weaknesses reflects the challenges of measuring progress in this field.
WHAT IS GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE?
Green infrastructure is a term that can encompass a wide array of specific practices, and a number of definitions. The US Environmental Protection Agency defines green infrastructure as a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provides many community benefits. While single-purpose gray stormwater infrastructure—conventional piped drainage and water treatment systems—is designed to move urban stormwater away from the built environment, green infrastructure reduces, and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits. This definition is enlarged to support the various aspects that urban living needs to accommodate, including: downspout disconnection, rainwater harvesting, rain gardens, planter boxes, bioswales, permeable pavements, green streets and alleys, green parking, green roofs, urban tree canopy, and land conservation. In all, green infrastructure is an approach to water management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle. Green infrastructure is effective, economical, and enhances community safety and quality of life. It means planting trees and restoring wetlands, rather than building a costly new water treatment plant. It means choosing water efficiency instead of building a new water supply dam. It means restoring floodplains instead of building taller levees. Green infrastructure incorporates both the natural environment and engineered systems to provide clean water, conserve ecosystem values and functions, and provide a wide array of benefits to people and wildlife.
GREEN INFRASTURCTURE: SCOPE
Green infrastructure occurs at all scales. While it's often closely associated with green stormwater management systems, which are smart and cost-effective, to some degree the Centre has been looking at it from a larger perspective. Green infrastructure can be a centerpiece of smart regional and metropolitan planning, ensuring communities have a livable environment, with clean air and water, for generations to come. Green infrastructure can be designed to address the needs of wildlife, which are increasingly threatened by climatic changes and provide systems of corridors or greenways to enable movement through human settlements. Those corridors are often beautiful places that people find desirable and are associated with high-priced real estate. Green infrastructure includes park systems and urban forests. Trees are a critical piece in green infrastructural systems and shouldn't be discounted in favor of other technologies. Constructed wetlands are another way to harness nature to manage water locally and provide wildlife habitat. In all, smart communities are using green infrastructure for transportation systems (green streets), and green roofs, which can bring the benefits of nature to the built environment. The Centre has top-end research in green infrastructure research and relating its systems.
WHAT IS LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE?
Landscape architecture is the study and practice of designing environments (i.e., outdoors and indoors) of varying scale that encompasses elements of art, environment, architecture, engineering, and sociology. Landscape architecture is a profession that is unknown or misunderstood as gardening by many. Its value to society is greater than many can imagine and should be celebrated by the population of every town, city, and country. Landscape architects are involved in the designing of spaces that creates and enables life between the buildings. The involvement of landscape architects can be seen in streets, roads, shared paths, housing estates, apartment compounds, shopping malls, squares, plazas, gardens, pocket parks, playgrounds, cemeteries, memorials, museums, schools, universities, transport networks, regional parks, national parks, forests, waterways and across towns, cities, and countries. Landscape architects often go beyond design creating frameworks and policies for place and city shaping that enable citizens and government to create better places for all. Many landscape architects from the past and current have designed (and future will design) everlasting landscapes that will stand the test of time for decades to come that create calm, joy, and inspiration for so many. As a profession, landscape architects should be proud as few professions can stake claim to creating places that impact and benefit so many people. The Centre has a strong landscape architecture focus and has worked on numerous projects over the past decade.
URBAN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
Urban landscapes are changing dramatically. Cities worldwide are implementing plans to maintain the vitality of metropolitan areas and make them attractive and sustainable to residents, business, and tourism. Here lies an enthralling challenge. Urban landscape architecture focuses on cityscape planning and designs. An innovative combination of architecture and urban planning, our experts will look at how people use space across a diverse range of urban environments. Our approach will include:
work that is state-of-the-art and designed via our studios;
tackling social, economic, and ecological needs to enhance livelihoods;
comparative work that will integrate contemporary towns, locally and abroad;
top-notch practical design knowledge;
exploring the functional, expressive, and social impact of new construction tech;
understanding the interactions between people, activities, and places; and
integrating how the environment can influence mood and behavior.
In order to evaluate the sustainability of a system, an optimal account should include time, scale, and domain; a measure of sustainability should represent changes in the system that are relevant in the long-term—counted in decades and at least half century (as this is a time scale of two generations). It should reflect developments within the system and trade-offs to systems on other scaled levels. Similar to the ideas stated by Kinderyte' (2010), quantitative indicators prove useful in communicating the urgency of key issues in participatory settings. However, duplicate information can often cause confusion and frustration when the goal of information extends beyond raising awareness to include the development of policy options for improvements. For this reason, Grosskurth and Rotmans (2007) propose that if sustainable development is interpreted as a balanced long-term development of a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) sustainability process, then development of one part of the system toward a desirable state should not occur structurally at the cost of developments elsewhere in the system as this would compromise its continuity and functionality.
INDICES: AGGREGATION OF INDICATORS
Aggregated indicators use indices to model varying forms of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. It is clear that social progress, production, and consumption are important for human well-being. It has been found that scoring systems, including aspects of TBL practices, have problems in which choice of components and assigned weight are subjective and aggregation of different dimensions often not meaningful (Foliente et al., 2007). Observation is important and more criticism can be directed against the construction of sustainability indicators, for example within communities that have safeguards against environmental, social, and economic aspects of human activities. Hueting and Reijnders (2004) point out three problematic notions for the development of indicators:
The requirement of a positive relation between proposed constitutive elements of the indicator and environmental sustainability, understood as a sustainable production level;
Its construction of sustainability indicators on the basis of world views, that is, the United Nations system of national accounts (UNSNA) versus the TBL three-pillar approach (UNSD, 2014); and
Conflicting goals, which relate to our physical environment and the notion of inevitable sacrifice of either sustainability or production level.
Moreover, the use of sustainability indicators for measuring sustainability unlocks the notion of industry indicators and poses another challenge of where this field is going and how it may be used to integrate trends and records for policy development and decision making. The Centre has a strong research background in developing indices based on the index of sustainable functionality (ISF) and historical records at all levels. The ISF is a multi-criteria example in which the Centre has been trying to integrate quantitative with qualitative datasets. The Centre has primarily focused on past and present indices and has been moving toward future-based modelling developments.
Foliente, G., Kearns, A., Maheepala, S., Bai, X., and Barnett, G. (2007). "Beyond Triple Bottom Line – Sustainable Cities: CSIRO", In State of Australian Cities National Conference (SOAC2007). Adelaide, Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
Grosskurth, J., and Rotmans, J. (2007). Sustainability Indicators: A Scientific Assessment. Hàk, T., Moldan, B., and Dahl, A. L. (Eds.). Washington, D.C.: Island Press.
Hueting, R., and Reijnders, L. (2004). "Broad sustainability contra sustainability: The proper construction of sustainability indicators", Ecological Economics, 50(3-4): 249-260.
Kinderyte', L. (2010). "Methodology of Sustainability Indicators Determination for Enterprise Assessment", Environmental Research, Engineering and Management, 52(2): 25-31.
BUILDING SMART CITIES
More than half of the world’s population now resides in urban or rapidly urbanizing areas, crucibles for our most complex environmental and social problems. Nonetheless, cities also present many opportunities to test and adapt solutions at an efficient scale, translating collective knowledge into action. We have been capitalizing on our Scandinavian network and contacts as many Scandinavian cities pose as some of the most sustainable cities in the world. We are closely aligned with local governments, businesses, and organizations to stimulate innovation. Our expertise includes sustainable transportation, integrated water, energy infrastructure, and development of sustainable green zones and neighborhoods. We can assist in innovatively putting together and studying green buildings, but also collectively engaging in community wants and needs to model how cities may define their own future. The construct of urban institutions, like universities, are uniquely positioned to deploy their mission of education and service to solve city-scale challenges while preserving natural systems and creating equitable economic opportunities for its citizens. We support the European Smart City Model [smart-cities.eu] based out of the Vienna University of Technology. It provides an integrative approach to profile and benchmark European medium-sized cities and is regarded as an instrument for effective learning processes regarding urban innovations in specific fields of urban development.
A CLOSER LOOK AT URBAN SUSTAINABILITY
In a city there is a large population of people, often living quite close to each other. These people need many things, such as food, energy, and clean water, and they need to dispose of their waste. This may have a large negative impact on the environment. Large amounts of countryside may be turned over to growing food for people in the city, valleys may be flooded to store and supply water and landfill sites used to dispose of waste. Urban sustainability is the idea that a city can be organized without excessive reliance on the surrounding countryside and be able to power itself with renewable sources of energy. The aim of this is to create the smallest possible ecological footprint and to produce the lowest quantity of pollution possible, to efficiently use land, compost used materials, recycle it or convert waste-to-energy, and to make the city’s overall contribution as minimal as possible. However, human beings are social creatures and we thrive in urban spaces and this, in turn, encourages social connections. Despite what some people think, urban systems can be more environmentally sustainable than rural or suburban living, where people may be further from each other, from essential services and from the workplace. With people and resources located so close to one another it is possible to save energy and resources by the effective planning of services such as food transportation and mass transit systems. Cities also benefit the economy by bringing people together in one relatively small area where ideas can easily be generated and developed. The Centre has expertise in working with businesses and academia in solving urban solutions in water, energy, transportation, health, building materials, and food production.