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A discourse-analytical perspective on sustainability assessment : interpreting a contested concept in practice

(2013) SUSTAINABILITY SCIENCE. 8(2). p.187-198
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Abstract
Sustainable development is a ubiquitously used concept in public decision-making: it refers to an ideal vision of global society where human development and environmental quality go hand in hand. Logically any decision-supporting process aiming at facilitating and steering society toward a sustainable future then seems desirable. Assessing the sustainability of policy decisions is however influenced by what sustainable development is believed to entail, as different discourses coexist under the umbrella of the sustainable development meta-discourse. This paper proposes a typology of sustainable development discourses, and subsequently applies a discourse-analytical lens on two practical cases of sustainability assessment in different institutional and geographical contexts (in Belgium and in Benin). The results indicate that sustainability assessments tend to be influenced mainly by the consensual ‘sustainable development as integration’ discourse, while also providing a forum for dialogue between different discourses. The results shed light on context-specific discursive and institutional dynamics for the development and application of sustainability assessment. Acknowledging these dynamics as well as sustainable development’s inherent interpretational limits can lead to an improved use of sustainable development as a decision-guiding strategy.
Keywords
ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT, FRAMEWORK, RESILIENCE, FUTURES, ISSUES, ENERGY, POLICY, WORLD, Sustainable development, Discourse analysis, Sustainability assessment, Belgium, Benin

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MLA
Hugé, Jean, et al. “A Discourse-Analytical Perspective on Sustainability Assessment : Interpreting a Contested Concept in Practice.” SUSTAINABILITY SCIENCE, vol. 8, no. 2, 2013, pp. 187–98, doi:10.1007/s11625-012-0184-2.
APA
Hugé, J., Waas, T., Dahdouh-Guebas, F., Koedam, N., & Block, T. (2013). A discourse-analytical perspective on sustainability assessment : interpreting a contested concept in practice. SUSTAINABILITY SCIENCE, 8(2), 187–198. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-012-0184-2
Chicago author-date
Hugé, Jean, Tom Waas, Farid Dahdouh-Guebas, Nico Koedam, and Thomas Block. 2013. “A Discourse-Analytical Perspective on Sustainability Assessment : Interpreting a Contested Concept in Practice.” SUSTAINABILITY SCIENCE 8 (2): 187–98. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-012-0184-2.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Hugé, Jean, Tom Waas, Farid Dahdouh-Guebas, Nico Koedam, and Thomas Block. 2013. “A Discourse-Analytical Perspective on Sustainability Assessment : Interpreting a Contested Concept in Practice.” SUSTAINABILITY SCIENCE 8 (2): 187–198. doi:10.1007/s11625-012-0184-2.
Vancouver
1.
Hugé J, Waas T, Dahdouh-Guebas F, Koedam N, Block T. A discourse-analytical perspective on sustainability assessment : interpreting a contested concept in practice. SUSTAINABILITY SCIENCE. 2013;8(2):187–98.
IEEE
[1]
J. Hugé, T. Waas, F. Dahdouh-Guebas, N. Koedam, and T. Block, “A discourse-analytical perspective on sustainability assessment : interpreting a contested concept in practice,” SUSTAINABILITY SCIENCE, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 187–198, 2013.
@article{2971677,
  abstract     = {{Sustainable development is a ubiquitously used concept in public decision-making: it refers to an ideal vision of global society where human development and environmental quality go hand in hand. Logically any decision-supporting process aiming at facilitating and steering society toward a sustainable future then seems desirable. Assessing the sustainability of policy decisions is however influenced by what sustainable development is believed to entail, as different discourses coexist under the umbrella of the sustainable development meta-discourse. This paper proposes a typology of sustainable development discourses, and subsequently applies a discourse-analytical lens on two practical cases of sustainability assessment in different institutional and geographical contexts (in Belgium and in Benin). The results indicate that sustainability assessments tend to be influenced mainly by the consensual ‘sustainable development as integration’ discourse, while also providing a forum for dialogue between different discourses. The results shed light on context-specific discursive and institutional dynamics for the development and application of sustainability assessment. Acknowledging these dynamics as well as sustainable development’s inherent interpretational limits can lead to an improved use of sustainable development as a decision-guiding strategy.}},
  author       = {{Hugé, Jean and Waas, Tom and Dahdouh-Guebas, Farid and Koedam, Nico and Block, Thomas}},
  issn         = {{1862-4065}},
  journal      = {{SUSTAINABILITY SCIENCE}},
  keywords     = {{ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT,FRAMEWORK,RESILIENCE,FUTURES,ISSUES,ENERGY,POLICY,WORLD,Sustainable development,Discourse analysis,Sustainability assessment,Belgium,Benin}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  number       = {{2}},
  pages        = {{187--198}},
  title        = {{A discourse-analytical perspective on sustainability assessment : interpreting a contested concept in practice}},
  url          = {{http://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-012-0184-2}},
  volume       = {{8}},
  year         = {{2013}},
}

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