What is sustainable? Suggestion for a tool to evaluate environmental, social and economic sustainability of household services
Minna M Halme1 and Gabriele Hrauda2, (1)Helsinki School of Economics, Finland; (2)IÖW Institute for Environmental Management and Economics, Austria
The proposed paper is based upon a project on sustainable household services funded by the European Commission (Oct. 2002 – Sept. 2004). Six countries are involved: Austria, Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

The idea of services replacing products is increasingly offered as a solution to making the production and consumption patterns of the affluent consumers more sustainable. Previous studies indicate that consumers must be able to use such services as easily or conveniently as the products they own themselves. Therefore we define sustainable homeservices as services that are offered to consumers at or near their home, and that contribute positively to sustainable development in its three dimensions: environment, society, and economy.

The research on eco-efficient services and ‘sustainable product-service systems’ tends to miss out the social and economic aspects of sustainability and emphasise the eco-efficiency perspective. We argue that this is the reason for the weak success of many attractive eco-efficient services directed to consumers. Therefore we propose a concept of holistically sustainable services in which the social sustainability aspect is also recognised with equal attention, as well as a tool for analysing holistic sustainability of household services. Over 100 home-related services have been gathered and their sustainability potential is assessed with a newly developed evaluation method combining the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the homeservice. It consists of altogether 18 indicators and an ordinal rating scale assessing whether, and roughly how much, the respective service enhances sustainability in ecological, economic and/or social dimension. For practitioners, e.g. housing organizations and other household service providers the method provides a simple way to assess how their service could be made more sustainable.

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