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Title: Applications of aggregation theory to sustainability assessment

In order to aid in transition towards operations that promote sustainability goals, researchers and stakeholders use sustainability assessments. Although assessments take various forms, many utilize diverse sets of indicators that can number anywhere from two to over 2000. Indices, composite indicators, or aggregate values are used to simplify high dimensional and complex data sets and to clarify assessment results. Although the choice of aggregation function is a key component in the development of the assessment, there are few examples to be found in literature to guide appropriate aggregation function selection. This paper develops a connection between the mathematical study of aggregation functions and sustainability assessment in order to aid in providing criteria for aggregation function selection. Relevant mathematical properties of aggregation functions are presented and interpreted. Lastly, we provide cases of these properties and their relation to previous sustainability assessment research. Examples show that mathematical aggregation properties can be used to address the topics of compensatory behavior and weak versus strong sustainability, aggregation of data under varying units of measurements, multiple site multiple indicator aggregation, and the determination of error bounds in aggregate output for normalized and non-normalized indicator measures.
ORCiD logo [1] ;  [2]
  1. Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN (United States). Dept. of Mathematics; Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Center for BioEnergy Sustainability
  2. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Center for BioEnergy Sustainability
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Ecological Economics
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 114; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 0921-8009
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
Country of Publication:
United States
29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY, AND ECONOMY; aggregation functions; compensatory functions; distance to target; indicators; mathematical aggregation theory; sustainability assessment; uncertainty; weak versus strong sustainability
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1249864