On the concept of sustainability – assessing the sustainability of large public infrastructure investment projects
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionInternational Journal of Sustainable Engineering. 2014, 7 (1), 2-12. 10.1080/19397038.2013.811557
Assessing the sustainability of large public investment projects within the general framework of three-pillar thinking is a complex affair. Such ventures involve multiple actors – e.g. planners from various disciplines such as engineers, economists and social scientists, in addition to politicians, users and other people affected – each carrying with them particular agendas and priorities, and corresponding understandings of the concept of sustainability. In this paper, we propose to frame the concept of sustainability assessment within the context of investment projects, in order to enable communication between the multiple actors, to assess different impacts of an investment project against one another in a meaningful way and, ultimately, to enhance the commensurability of investment project alternatives. Our main idea is that there exist different levels according to which the assessment of sustainability ought to refer – operational, tactical and strategic – and that properly addressing these levels can permit the different actors to comprehend one another, and thereby allow for more clarity and positive action.