Working Draft Framework for Selecting Sustainable Development Indicators

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The working draft of the Sustainable Development Indicators (SDI) framework provides a logical structure for components of the Earth system from the unique view of sustainable development. The all-inclusive nature of the framework ensures consideration of all alternatives before selecting the most appropriate SDI for the United States. The SDI Group has drafted framework goals and objectives and required framework charactristics. As a working draft, this framework will evolve as the SDI Group receives input from participants in the selection process (Federal, state, and, local agencies, non-government organizations, corporations, etc.)

Sustainable development is like managing a finacial portfolio. A portfolio manager has a set of financial assets which he manages to produce both current income and future value. To manage effectively, a portfolio manager needs information on both the value of the assets and their current yields. In effect, we collectively serve as Trustees of an Endowment which we manage both to meet our current needs and to assure future opportunities. At a minimum, to manage for sustainable development, we need information on the value or condition of the assets and resources in our Endowment and on its Current Output. The SDI Framework has three primary elements (Click to see expanded definitions):

1. Endowments are the economic, environmental and social resources, assets, and conditions that we inherit from previous generations and pass along to future generations.

2. Current Output and Results are the goods, services, and experiences, both marketed and non-marketed, which the current population enjoys as a result of its use of the endowment.

3. Processes are activities that draw upon various components of the Endowment to produce Current Outputs and Results. This includes all biological, physical, economic, and social processes. The framework includes all processes, but emphasizes the driving forces and responses that directly relate to endowments and current outpus and results.

These elements match the two goals implicit in the definition of sustainable development: 1) meeting the needs of current generations and 2) preserving the opportunities for future generations. The Endowments supply current needs and get passed along to future generations. Current Outputs and Results measure of the success of efforts to meet current needs.