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Accuracy of Sustainability Statistics

Jim Newton, P.E., DEE

There are numerous definitions for sustainability. In order to provide a more complete picture of sustainability, a common definition needs to be agreed upon. One of the most common definitions was prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development and published in 1987. This organization defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

In a sustainable society nothing is wasted or released to the environment. The wastes and byproducts are either recycled or reused either by the facility or other industries. A product, once it has reached its useful life is recycled or repaired and reused.

Many organizations look upon sustainability as a union of three distinct areas: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, and social or ethical sustainability. This concept has often been referred to as “the triple bottom line” or “the three e’s”. In the past, organizations have used the word “or” as in environmental sustainability or economic viability, environmental sustainability or social (ethical) progress, social progress or economic viability. Sustainability concepts replace the “or” with “and”.

Once a commitment has been made to promote sustainability, it is important to report progress on sustainability efforts in a balanced and reasonable manner. It is just as important to ensure that the report presents accurate information. There is a standard for just that aspect of sustainability reporting, AA1000.

This course is designed for those organizations who are already promoting sustainability and covers the main guideline for ensuring the accuracy of reporting sustainability statistics, the AA 1000 Assurance standards issued by AccountAbility.

The texts for this course are AA1000 Assurance Standard Series which includes the AA1000 Assurance Standard (2008), the AA1000 AccountAbility Principles Standard, (2008), the Stakeholder Engagement Standard (2005) and the Introduction to the Revised AA1000 Assurance standard and the AA1000 Accountability Principles Standard 2008 published by AccountAbility, October 2003.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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