Winning Acceptance

The need for indicator users, particularly decision makers in political processes, to agree to and take ownership of sustainable development indicators creates its own conceptual challenge. Politicians, corporate executives, and many other senior officials can retain their positions only if they are seen to do well. Any indicator that reflects well on their performance will be supported, but indicators that show they are doing badly will meet strong opposition or rejection. In the current state of the world, most indicators of sustainability show how unsustainable present trends are. Given the proverbial tendency to shoot the messenger bearing bad news, it is very difficult to win acceptance for indicators that reflect negatively on the performance of decision makers. Only a careful indicator development process, and often peer pressure from others who support the process or from a demanding electorate, can win reluctant consensus to adopt and use sustainability indicators. The process itself must be seen as transparent, inclusive, fair, and legitimate, and strive to be independent of pressures from narrow organizational or personal self-interest, if it is to succeed.

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