Embedding Social Dimensions Into Economic and Environmental Accounting and Indicators Systems – Some Aspects to Consider

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Danish sustainable development (SD) indicator set presents extensive assortment of social indicators, which are describing several social themes. However, policy analysis of sustainable development requires instruments for further analysis of the underlying mechanisms and reasons for changes in indicators. The present indicator set can to a lesser extent be used for such a purpose. The primary reason for this is that the indicators are often based on data originating from different statistical frameworks. Therefore, a new indicator set should be derived from a statistical framework where individual indicators are embedded into an underlying database from which they can be derived by aggregation. The System of Economic and Social Accounting matrices and Extensions (SESAME) is such an information system that integrates economic, social and environmental statistics. It is a statistical information system in matrix format, from which a set of core economic, environmental and social macro-indicators can be derived. The system is driven by the kind of information required for monitoring and policy-making at the macro-level. Every indicator derived from SESAME is computed from a single fully consistent statistical system and each indicator uses the most suitable measurement unit of the phenomenon it describes. The social dimension in SESAME is presented within a Social Accounting Matrices (SAM), which is characterized by several constraints in connection to social topics. For that reason, all future work on social indicators in SESAME demands clear clarification of SD’s social dimension and definition of essential indicators which will present this dimension. Many social topics cannot be incorporated into SAM. A possible solution will be to add a range of supplementary tables to SESAME that will contain social topics, which cannot be incorporated into SAM. However, addition of different social indicators to SESAME will imply the problems with an increasing amount of social indicators. The path forward must be clarification of SD’s social dimension and delimitation of social headline indicators. Delimitation of social headline indicators demands a clear definition of term indicator. The indicators are, on the first hand, a communication tool directed at the general public and the media. However, the meaning given to the term “indicator” seems to differ significantly through the different topics of official statistics. It results in a growing amount of low quality indicators, without clear message and theoretical background. I want to emphasize that I do not advocate for special statistical frameworks or specific methods. Different kinds of statistics and inventories all serve their specific purposes. However, the point is that indicators calculated from elements originating from different statistical frameworks are a bad idea since they might be misleading.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNinth Meeting of The London Group on Environmental Accounting - 2004
Number of pages269
Place of PublicationStatistics Denmark
PublisherDanmarks Statistik
Publication date2004
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes
EventNinth Meeting of the London Group on Environmental Accounting - Copenhagen
Duration: 22 Sept 200424 Sept 2004
Conference number: 9


ConferenceNinth Meeting of the London Group on Environmental Accounting
Internet address

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