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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

The relevance of ecological and economic policies for sustainable development

Hellstrand, Stefan; Skånberg, Kristian; Drake, Lars


A sustainable development can be understood as social and economic development within ecological sustainability limits. The operationalisation of a sustainable development presupposes integration of resource concepts covering relevant disciplines and systems levels. In this paper descriptive domains within physical resource theory (PRT), nutrition theory (NT), economic theory (ET) and emergy theory (EmT) are joined in what we call a “sustainability map.” The sustainability map represents a conceptual model of the economic production system in its ecological and social contexts. It is a contribution within the field integrated assessment. The relevance domain of each resource concept is analysed by comparison with the sustainability map. It is concluded that resource concepts that well supports a sustainable development should recognise the process restrictions that defines ecological, economic and social sustainability limits; thus recognise and in a relevant way treat threshold—and resilience phenomena; and capture the use-value of resources for human well-being. We suggest that the integration of NT, ET and EmT may contribute, while we find the value of PRT limited, as physics, thus PRT, is indifferent to life as a system characteristic, while life of microbes, plants, animals and humans is central in the sustainability context. The paper contributes to a theoretical foundation supporting a bridging of the implementation gap of a sustainable development, e.g. through its proposal of how to develop more accurate natural resource concepts.

Published in

Environment, Development and Sustainability
2009, volume: 11, pages: 853-870

Authors' information

Hellstrand, Stefan
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics
Skånberg, Kristian
No organisation
Drake, Lars
Swedish Chemicals Agency (KemI)

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

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