Indicators can be powerful tools in the communication of environmental issues to policymakers. They serve a useful function in simplifying complex issues, steering policymaking, and measuring environmental and policy progress. However, although the simplicity of indicators makes them powerful communication tools, it also represents their limitation. Determining what constitutes sustainability—environmentally, socially, and economically—and comparing current developments against these goals requires indicators to capture multidimensional trade-offs and comparisons in a single two-dimensional graphic.

Although indicators can provide the common language and the accepted yardstick for benchmarking between different countries, regions, or municipalities, they can also be misleading in their simplicity. The theoretical basis for indicator selection therefore must be modified continuously to capture current developments and maintain policy relevance.

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