I’ve long considered how sustainability could be measured and presented in an easily comprehendible way.  It seems that some of the measures commonly employed in the sustainability world are extremely esoteric and far from easy to conceptualise.

Consider CO2 – typically measured in parts per million (PPM) – just what does 380 ppm look like; or data centres – and the nebulous concept of PUE (power utilisation effectiveness).  I’m not sure it would become any clearer if the nightly news channel told us how many mega-Watt hours of energy the country consumed the day before.

Maybe the answer could lie in the creation of some sort of index which brings together a number of the above factors, like but not exclusively those above, and normalised for seasonal fluctuations (CO2 levels ebb and flow each year rather like the tide).

It strikes me that then familiarity becomes the issue – it’s a bit like a share-price index – taken on just one day the FTSE100 and the Dow Jones share indices do not tell you very much.  The FTSE 100 is at 6318.19 this evening which in itself doesn’t mean a lot – however in the context of its baseline (it started at 1000 in January 2004) and historical trend, it starts to have meaning.  Indeed the morning news reporters happily tell us each day by how much the FTSE went up (or down) yesterday, and consequently the business community gains a broad understanding of the general direction of the market.

Perhaps if a sustainability index could be conceptualised and introduced, we could start to get our progress on sustainability into the nation’s consciousness … if only to highlight that progress in most cases is slower than we require.

The key, I believe, would be that regular daily update which over time would provide the familiarity with the sustainability concept and start giving people the sense of whether things are getting better or worse.

18th February 2013