The If, How and Where of assessing sustainable resource use

Frank Figge, Tobias Hahn, Ralf Barkemeyer

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In today's economies those who sustain the burden of resource use, those using resources and those providing resources are not necessarily identical. With this separation come three fundamental but interrelated decision-making perspectives on the sustainability assessment of resource use. These three perspectives correspond to the three assessment questions if, how, and where resources should be used. Most sustainability assessment approaches do not make their underlying assessment perspectives explicit. The goal of this paper is to provide structure and organisation to existing approaches. This structuring suggests that any discussion on the appropriateness and validity of different assessment approaches and their results must take into account the underlying assessment perspective. The three questions if, how, and where resources should be used correspond to the requirements of a sustainable resource use. While existing assessments do address the three questions in isolation, it is all the more important that the limitations and implications of focusing on a single perspective are spelled out. As the main contribution, the paper distinguishes the rationale of each assessment perspective and develops on their interlinkages and thus provides the context and structure for a more informed and fruitful debate on the assessment of sustainable resource use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-283
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Financial economics
  • Production economics
  • Sustainability assessment
  • Sustainable resource use
  • Welfare economics


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