Generic sustainability assessment themes and the role of context: The case of Danish maize for German biogas

Vicent Gasso*, Frank W. Oudshoorn, Evelien De Olde, Claus A.G. Sørensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The choice of context-generic or -specific themes and subthemes (goals and objectives) for sustainability assessment implies a number of tradeoffs; for instance, benchmarking and resource efficiency vs. coverage and engagement. Analyses of the potentials and limitations of generic assessment themes and sub-themes within specific contexts may help to develop frameworks that minimise the tradeoffs between generic and specific assessment approaches. The aim of this study was to analyse the effectiveness of generic themes and sub-themes of existing frameworks for covering the key sustainability issues of a specific case study - the case of Danish maize for German biogas. The results indicate that generic frameworks can effectively cover context-specific issues related to the environmental dimension of sustainability. Conversely, generic frameworks can be unable to identify context-specific issues related to social and economic dimensions. This study suggests that the coverage gap of generic themes is mainly an issue of framework incompleteness that can be advanced with additional research. A one-size-fits-all specificity-level for sustainability assessment is not applicable, and the specificity-level should be tailored to the assessment purpose. A certain degree of stakeholder participation is recommended not only in the assessment process, but also during the framework design to support stakeholders' sustainability education and action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-153
JournalEcological Indicators
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Context
  • Generic
  • Issues
  • Objectives
  • Sustainability
  • Themes


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