Regional Sustainable Development Planning - Does Time Horizon Make a Difference?
Amelia Clarke
Ph.D. Student
McGill University, Faculty of Management
1001 Sherbrooke Street West, Montral, Qubec H3A 1G5 Canada
1-514-605-1436  amelia.clarke@mail.mcgill.ca
One of the core concepts of sustainable development is that it encompasses inter-generational timeframes. Yet, we often plan for sustainable development in a short time horizon. By choosing one time horizon, i.e., five years, decisions can be made that have benefits for one activity sector (e.g., filling in wetlands for urban development), but have long-term consequences for another activity sector (e.g., flooding from water displacement) (Sustainable Cities Programme, 1999). This is why doing multi-horizon planning can help avoid trade-offs and improve triple bottom-line efforts.

 One of the usages of time in management literature is the study of time horizon (Das 1987; Nor 1999). A complementary research stream might be called planning time horizons. It includes work regarding short versus long-term focus (Ancona, Goodman et al 2001); inter-temporal choice (Laverty 1996); time and goal setting (Fried and Slowik 2004); temporal zones (Ancona et al 2001); system velocities (Kohn 1998); and multiple time frames (Ancona, Goodman, et al., 2001). 

 Interestingly, most municipalities do regional sustainable development planning based on only one time horizon. This ranges from five years (Montral), to 25 years (Halifax), to 100 years (Vancouver). Based on the literature and various regional sustainable development strategies and plans throughout Canada, the following propositions can be made:

 1: Long-term versus medium-term versus short-term sustainable development strategy will have a different integration of ecological, social and economic considerations in the plan content.
2: Long-term and medium-term strategy will allow for more inclusion of sustainable development concepts such as intergenerational timeframes, ecological limits and integration of social, ecological and economic systems in the plan content.
3: Various variables will be better suited to short, medium or long-term planning depending on their pace, cycle, urgency or sequential order.
The practical implication of this would be that strategists and planners can choose their time horizon based on the topic that most interests them. Alternatively, strategists and planners could choose multiple time horizons in order to determine potential long-term, medium-term and short-term influences and impacts, and to determine multi-horizon goals. 


[Presentation: This presentation will contribute to the conference’s specific question of regional sustainable development planning.]


All Submissions
7:00 AM-5:00 PM, Thursday, 20 October 2005, Oral

The Nova Scotia, Canada 2005 Meeting