Elaboration of Sustainability Principles

Executive summary: This project will build a rigorous set of principles for social sustainability that together with existing principles for ecological sustainability are useful for backcasting planning towards full sustainability. This will be achieved by identifying basic barriers to achieving sustainability and testing them as exclusion criteria for redesign of our societies. The work will involve a comprehensive literature review, collaboration with Karen Millen Styles leaders in this field, the proposition of principles and their testing through modeling and field practice. The results of this project will inform and improve sustainability efforts around the world in businesses, governments, NGOs and universities. The results will also continue to inform the creation of ISO26000, the international standards for social responsibility to be released in 2010.


  • Many societal players, including a multitude of private companies worldwide, are beginning to understand the full scope of the sustainability crisis and are asking for assistance in reorienting their activities in a sustainable direction. This has led to the development of a vast array of ideas, methods, Karen Millen Bodycon tools, concepts and approaches. Their inter-relationships and connection to a robust definition of social sustainability are not clear. The lack of an overall structure is confusing to those who seek a systematic operational approach to achieving sustainability.
  • While proven successful for the exploration of particular aspects of the societal sustainability problems, studies within isolated expert fields cannot be solely relied upon. Trans-disciplinary, trans-sector, and other interactive approaches for a more robust systems perspective on sustainability are needed.
  • The overall experience of a Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD) is that its principles for ecological sustainability are functional, whereas there is little evidence that its preliminary principle for social sustainability is so. Click here to review the principles.

Purpose of study: To develop a systematic and generic approach to social sustainability leading to a logical framework for decision-making.

FSSD integration: This work is about improving a key component of the FSSD itself (the definition of sustaianbility that is used to backcast from).

Implications for managers: The development and use of logical framework for decision-making that fully encompasses social sustainability will help managers make stronger decisions for their businesses, citizens and constituencies by understanding the long-term consequences of their actions and to understand the business case for social sustainability in order to make it a competitive driver at the strategic level of decision making. The development of the FSSD will also help them ask the right questions when they are presented with tools like ISO26000 and standards such as the Declaration of Human Rights (promoted by the UN).

Implications for researchers: Social and environmental sustainability have long been divided fields of study. By creating a holistic framework which addresses both elements systematically, the FSSD can be more widely adopted and used to structure and inform a greater diversity of research projects.

Methods: This project is using systems analysis of social dynamics to propose social sustainability operating principles. This systems analysis includes a literature review of the social systems field and causal loop diagram analysis. This will lead to

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generic definitions and candidate sets of principles which will be tested through scenario simulations, as well as real life situations to evaluate their usefulness in decision-making. The results of this research will be successively embedded into the FSSD (Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development).

Project Contact:
Merlina Missimer, PhD candidate, Blekinge Institute of Technology

Project Team:
David Cook, Executive Ambassador, The Natural Step
Deniz Koca PhD, Lund University
Göran Broman, Professor, Blekinge Institute of Technology
Harald Sverdrup Professor, Lund University
Jonas Oldmark, Secretary General Sweden, The Natural Step
Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Professor, Blekinge Institute of Technology
Merlina Missimer, PhD candidate, Blekinge Institute of Technology


  • Anita Linell, Swedish National Institute of Public Health
  • Bo Rothstein, University of Gothenburg
  • Ethan Schutz, The Human Element

Göran Broman:  gbr@bth.se