Sustainable development is a core EU objective: we need to ensure that our present socio-economic development does not compromise our future. Policy-makers at EU and Member State level now appreciate the need to reconcile the triple objectives of wealth creation, social cohesion and environmental protection, and that win-win solutions are possible. What combination of policies, support measures and technologies will optimize benefits within and across all three domains? And how should policy-makers’ decisions respond to the often conflicting views of stakeholders? Scientifically sound tools to support decision-making by measuring and assessing policies' impact are needed for the successful implementation of genuinely sustainable policies. This feeds into the wider context of looking at the contribution of the whole FP7 to sustainable development, which is shown on the web-portal "European research for Sustainable Development" created for this purpose.
Research history and policy relevance
Sustainable development impact assessment tools
The EU renewed Sustainable Development Strategy (§11) reaffirms the importance of assessing the impact of a policy, where its social, environmental and economic dimensions are evaluated in a balanced way, taking into account the external dimension and cost of inaction. A range of practical tools to support informed decision-making was developed under the previous FP's. They include modeling and simulation software, accounting frameworks and codes of practice, as well as impact assessment, performance monitoring and external cost estimation.
Sustainable development indicators
The European Commission monitors the renewed EU SDS implementation on the basis of a set of sustainable development indicators (§ 33). Organised into 10 themes reflecting the political priorities of the renewed strategy, the current set enables progress towards attaining the SDS objectives that are to be evaluated. Additional research is needed in this field. In the context of FP6, projects examining the development and use of sustainable development indicators were funded which also looked for policies that have the best chance of having a positive effect on the three pillars of sustainable development and drew conclusions for the improvement of the EU SDS.
Interplay between social, economic and ecological systems - Knowledge brokerage and CSO involvement
The renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy stresses a strong need for further research in the interplay between social, economic and ecological systems. Is there a way to better use research in policy making? Knowledge brokerage aims at better exploiting the already existing research potential. This process is designed to include researchers, stakeholders and policy makers as project partners, stimulating a multidisciplinary approach and activating innovative, multi-way interactions among all of them. Besides, building on the same recommendation of the renewed EU SDS, FP7 emphasises the necessity of "engaging the dialogue on scientific issues and research results with the broadest possible public beyond the research community … including the involvement, where appropriate of civil society organisations (CSOs) …". With FP7, efforts are made to structure possible partnership between CSOs and researchers, to encompass research and dialogue on the societal relevance and impact of its results.