The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 5, Number 1-2, 2006

ISSN 1602-2297

Exploring the Policy Use of Sustainable Development Indicators: Interviews with Finnish Politicians

Ulla Rosenström, Lic. Phil.
Finnish Environment Institute, P.O. Box 140, FIN-00251 Helsinki

Abstract: After more than a decade of sustainable development indicator promotion, indicators have not been integrated into policy-making procedures as expected. Sustainable development indicators were developed in 2000 to support Finnish policy-making, but indications of their use are minimal. In 2001, a study of 41 people involved in high-level policy-making in Finland was launched, its
purpose was to assess the use of indicators and the potential for increasing their use. The research method was qualitative interviews concerning selected themes.
Evaluation research use fi ndings were used as a framework for the results. The interviews revealed that the indicators were most likely to be used conceptually as learning tools and symbolically in the political debate. Direct use in decision-making was less likely. The politicians named the most important criteria for useful indicators as reliability, simplicity, inclusion of longer trends, and comparability to other countries and regions. In addition to the indicators’ characteristics, use is also aff ected by the ideology, information and the interests of the user and by the eff orts of the developers to provide the indicators at a right time, to update them regularly, present them attractively and to ensure easy access to them. The indicator qualities, user profi le and the eff orts by the developer determine the type of use that prevails.

Keywords: Sustainable development indicators, research use, policy-making, use of indicators.

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