In the end, decision-makers will need to decide what alternatives to choose and what mitigation measures to put in place. This will typically involve integrating - or trading off - a range of social, economic and environmental issues. The table below shows six possible ways that multiple objectives can be integrated; Morrison-Saunders and Therivel (2006) propose a similar classification.
||Solutions which meet some social, economic and/or environmental objectives without harming others
||A rapidly deteriorating heritage-listed building is converted to affordable housing. It provides low cost housing, enhances the appearance of the building, residents are not concerned about the proximity of low income tenants and it does not add any pressue on existing services and facilities.
|Net gain/no net loss||Advances in some aspects of social, economic or environmental objectives outweigh any losses||Affordable housing is planned on the edge of a small village not large enough to support essential facilities and it requires compensatory habitat planting, and contributions to the repair of a nearby community hall - these costs do not prevent the development and the needs of low income residents and maintaining community cohesiveness are met. However social loss results from visual amenity deterioration and reduced house prices for homes close to the development. There is also environmental loss caused by generation of extra commuting traffic and loss of open space. Consultation reveals widespread agreement that the gains outweigh the losses.|
|Conflict minimisation||Solutions which reduce the potential conflict between different objectives (including eco-efficiency)||District X experiences a huge demand for new housing and the planning authority cannot identify sufficient urban redevelopment sites, however rural residents and countryside visitors are opposed to any further loss in open countryside. Council is also concerned about the additonal traffic generated by increased housing. A programme of housing renewal and vacancy rate reductions in poorer urban areas and housing development restrictions in rural areas meets the demand for housing and environmental objectives, but fails to fully satisfy people's aspirations for detached suburban or rural housing and an increase in rural housing prices disadvantages low income rural residents.|
|Policy compatibility||Policy objectives within a strategic action are not working against each other||A priority for land use plan X is to prevent any further damage to countryside character as a result of excessive traffic, but there is also a need to meet the demand for new housing for which there are insufficient sites in urban areas. The plan therefore concentrates new housing settlements on the periphery of the main towns.|
|Strategic coordination||Strategic actions covering the same area are supporting each other
||A priority for the planning authority is to maintain the character of the countryside both for recreational enjoyment and to promote diversification of the rural economy by encouraging tourism. The regional development agency is searching for key strategic development sites close to motorways. It identifies sites on the periphery of urban areas which will not impinge on the main tourist areas.|
|Addressing all three themes||Promoting social, economic and environmental objectives within one strategic action
||A local transport plan includes policies to promote freight transfer facilities (economic), subsidise bus fares for the elderly (social) and reduce town centre air pollution and congestion by park and ride facilities (environmental).|
Gibson et al. (2005) have proposed a series of sustainability decision criteria that attempt to avoid compartmentalising sustainability into economic, social and environmental pillars, and that should avoid the need to formally 'integrate' altogether. The criteria are:
- socio-ecological integrity: recognition of life support functions on which human and ecological wellbeing depends
- livelihood sufficiency and opportunity: ensuring a decent life for all people without compromising the same possibilities for future generations
- intra-generational equity: ensuring equity of sufficiency and opportunity for all people
- intergenerational equity: favouring options most likely to preserve or enhance opportunities for future generations to live sustainably
- resource maintenance and efficiency: reducing extractive damage, avoiding waste and reducing overall material and energy use per unit of benefit
- socio-ecological and democratic governance: delivering sustainability requirements through open and better informed deliberations, reciprocal awareness, collective responsibility and other decision-making practices
- precaution and adaptation: respect for uncertainty, avoidance of poorly understood adverse risks, planning to learn, designing for surprise and managing for adaptation; and
- immediate and long term integration: applying all principles of sustainability at once, seeking mutually supportive benefits and multiple gains.
Note how similar some of these are to the 'integrated' sustainability objectives discussed at Unit 9 of the Baseline section.
Where there are conflicting interests, Gibson et al. (2005) also recommend the following trade-off rules for sustainability:
- maximum net gains: deliver net progress towards meeting sustainability requirements (i.e. seek mutually reinforcing, cumulative and lasting contributions that favour the most positive feasible overall resutl while avoiding significant adverse effects)
- burden of argument on trade-off proponent: the burden of justification (especially where adverse effects in sustainability considerations will result) falls on the proponent of the trade-off
- avoidance of significant adverse effects: no trade-off that involves a significant adverse effect on any sustainability factor can be justified unless the alternative is acceptance of an even more significant adverse effect
- protection of the future: no displacement of a significant adverse effect from the present to the future can be justified unless the alternative is displacement of an even more significant negative effect from the present to the future
- explicit justification: all trade-offs must be openly identified in an explicit justification in light of the sustainability decision criteria and general trade-off rules
- open process: proposed compromises and trade-offs must be addressed and justified through open processes with effective involvement of all stakeholders.