/SQM System     /Users     /Training     /Experiences     /About Us

/Home   /Site Map   /Copyrights

  SQM - Sustainable Quality Management




de  fr  it


Starting with three questions

The 10 aspects of the Orientation towards Sustainable Development are designed to comprise most current interpretations of Sustainable Development. The 10 elements give answers to three basic questions:

WHAT?     What do we want to conserve, to develop, to sustain?

g The development dimensions:

  • the environment
  • the economy
  • the social and cultural legacy

WHY?      Why is there a debate, which are the conflicts of interest, who pushes for change?

g    The equity dimensions:

  • equity between individuals
  • equity between communities
  • equity between generations

HOW?    Which basic approaches can help us in this direction? 

g    The systemic principles

  • diversity
  • subsidiarity
  • networking / partnership
  • participation

More detailed but very general explanations about these aspects are given in the table below. 

In working with SQM these general aspects may be further developed

  • translating them into concrete questions according to the context concerned
  • specifying more detailed aspects and indicators in several levels of detail


General explanations of the ORIENTATION aspects

O1 environment The environmental component of Sustainability on the one hand demands conservation of the richness and the potentiality of our environment. On the other hand, it calls on us to respect the environmental and ecological principles, to respect and to sustain the functioning of ecological systems of which man is a part. Man has strongly shaped the environment, and therefore the term environment also encompasses the man-made environment.
O2 economy The economic component of sustainability on the one side means the satisfaction of human needs, the conservation and improvement of (mainly material) well-being. On the other hand it also means respect for economic principles: efficient use of all kinds of resources is an essential aspect of sustainability.
O3 socio-culture The conservation and development of human and social potentials is one side of this component. These potentials comprise all aspects of skills, knowledge, habits, beliefs, culture, institutions of human societies and also their individual members. 

The cultivation of these potentials on the other hand requires respect for the principles which are considered to be essential for the good functioning of our societies, such as the guarantee of human rights, democracy etc.
O4 equity between individuals Equity between individuals, which encompasses equity between all humans regardless of their social situation, their gender or their ethnic or cultural background is an essential demand since the French revolution and has been a core issue in the development of western societies since the middle of the last century. It remains a central issue in the concept sustainable development. Equity is not equality (the original quest of the French revolution), the aim is not to abolish all differences, but opportunities should be equitably distributed. Solidarity is essential for improving equity.
O5 equity between communities Equity between different regions and countries is a more recent concept. In a world in which interrelationships between different countries are continuously intensifying, the importance of this concept is growing. Equity for all humans becomes indivisible.
O6 equity between generations The concern about future generations has been at the origin of the concept of sustainability. Equity between present and future generations, the principle of maintaining and increasing overall opportunities and options, is an aspect to be considered in all actions. However, there is no simple rule how changes in opportunities may be valued. The other SD components are needed for assessing developments in this sense.
O7 diversity Diversity is an essential precondition for further development in all kinds of evolving systems. Biodiversity, economic diversity, diversity of cultures all stand for the ability of a system to maintain dynamic stability. Innovation and adaptation to new conditions is possible where different approaches and solutions can be combined to form new ones. Diversification therefore often is a strategy to increase long-term stability.
O8 subsidiarity The principle of Subsidiarity basically demands that all kinds of functions be fulfilled at the lowest possible level and within small dimensions. Help or ruling from outside shall only intervene if this really helps to improve the fulfilment of the function and if this does not diminish the autonomy of the subsystem in a dangerous way. The principle of Subsidiarity originated in the catholic social teaching concerning the issue of social responsibility and social security, but it can be applied to all kinds of systems, such as politics, administration, business, technical systems, material flows in the economy etc. 
The principle does not give clear indications, it describes the tension between autonomy and integration into larger systems. Very different answers have been given to it. Often, clear-cut divisions of competencies are sought between different hierarchic levels and dimensions. However, in a world of rapidly growing complexity it is increasingly important to be able to understand and manage shared and negotiated responsibilities between several levels and dimensions. Old concepts of (national) sovereignty will have to be replaced by concepts of multi-level governance.
Subsidiarity implies empowerment of individuals and communities to actively manage and control their own life. Subsidiarity nourishes democracy, by means of governance styles which allow citizens to determine every dimension of their common life and to improve their abilities to manage equitable social interactions
Understanding subsidiarity seems to be one of the main challenges of the emerging concept of sustainable development. In transition times standards and margins have to be newly defined. Subsidiarity is not only an issue for political and social systems. Trends towards globalisation of economic flows and technological systems risk undermining the margins of autonomous political and economic decision making at all levels. Only differentiated subsidiarity in all fields can be an answer to these problems.
O9 networking / partnership The concept of networking stresses the importance of horizontal non-hierarchical relationships. A network is based on mutually agreed objectives and rules and is basically open: members can enter and leave. Networks ensure the exchange of experiences and information, organise mutual support, stabilise systems and evolve. Networks are subject to competition: members may change to other, more attractive networks. Flexibility and orientation towards the needs of the members is therefore essential for networks to survive.
The concept of networking is not only relevant in social systems but also in biological and technical ones. The enormous success of the use of the networking concept in Information Technology parallel to its growing acceptance in all kinds of organisations is leading to a deep transformation of our societies.
O10 participation All stakeholders concerned by an issue should have the opportunity to be involved in the relevant process of decision making. In the early stages of the formulation of a problem and the identification of alternative solutions such an involvement is particularly important. Participation corresponds to basic ideas of democracy, favours a diversity of approaches and may contribute to avoidance of conflicts. Participation strengthens the sense of responsibility, motivates people to make contribution and increases compliance with decisions taken. Participation on the other hand requires time and motivation among the participants, openness of the institutions involved and often more time and funding than exclusive hierarchical decision making. Depending on the adopted procedures it also risks decisions being taken which contradict experts views. 
Participation concerns the way of decision making in all kinds of social systems including business. It requires respect for different kinds of interests and points of view. Therefore it also favours in approach which integrates the different dimensions of Sustainable Development.

Last update: 01.12.03