Skip to main content

Table 7 Principles (P, italics) and open-ended criteria (C, short name in italics) for good sustainability governance, which can be elaborated to define CI&V for assessment of the quality of sustainability governance systems

From: Conceptual framework for increasing legitimacy and trust of sustainability governance

P1. Seeking high levels of input legitimacy, also known as “political legitimacy” or “governance by people”. High quality of citizens’ political participation in governance systems and the governance system’s responsiveness to their inputs
C1.1 Context and participatory approach: Take time and make the effort to fully understand who the citizens or stakeholders are, for example, their interests and concerns, as a basis for deciding on the appropriate type and design of participatory approach for making decisions about the goals and the design of the governance system
C1.2 Participation: Establish principles or rules for legitimate participation in decision-making based on qualifying concepts, which can, for example, be democracy, balance of power, voice, inclusiveness, equality and equity of representation, which must be further specified
C1.3 Early involvement: Involve stakeholders at an early stage in the formation of the sustainability governance system, for example, to develop shared understanding of the challenges and consensus around the sustainability goals, including the level of standard strength and the procedural rules, based on the most relevant sources of scientific knowledge and knowledge about the context
C1.4 Communication and mutual learning: Create opportunities for continuous education of and communication between stakeholders to allow for exchange of experiences, mutual learning and possibly co-production of outcomes, if relevant
C1.5 Monitoring, evaluation and adaptivity: Gather data on stakeholder satisfaction regarding their involvement in decision-making and allow for engagement to discuss these data. Adjust the design of the engagement strategy if the level of satisfaction is inadequate
C1.6 Responsiveness and openness: Be open to innovation and change and make every participant’s contribution valued, with fairness in opportunities to contribute, and managing power dynamics if needed to achieve this
P2. Seeking high levels of output legitimacy, also known as “performance legitimacy” or “governance for people”. High quality of performance which encompasses policy efficacy and effectiveness, and thus achieving the intended goals or making progress towards them
C2.1 Context and policy design: Take time and effort to fully understand the biophysical, social, economic and institutional context of the sustainability challenges, to increase the probability that the sustainability governance system design suits the conditions
C2.2 Capacity and degree of institutionalisation: Match the capacity and degree of institutionalisation of the governance system with its ambitions
C2.3 Implementation and enforcement: Design implementation and enforcement systems to achieve efficacy, effectiveness, and efficiency, considering the context
C2.4 Monitoring, evaluation and adaptivity: Measure, monitor and evaluate the governance system’s ability to effectively achieve its goal or make progress towards them, based on output, outcome, or impact indicators. Adjust the policies and standards if the performance is inadequate, and the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system if it does not capture relevant developments, for example, new concerns, or provide evidence as intended
C2.5 Efficacy and effectiveness: Process the gathered data into information and knowledge that establish the evidence of the governance system’s efficacy and effectiveness in achieving the intended goals or making progress towards them
C2.6 Efficiency: All participants use limited resources efficiently to achieve the desired level of performance, i.e. optimise performance per used unit of resource, for example, costs, time, and administrational efforts. Specific means to achieve efficiency include collaborating with other governance systems (such as through mutual recognition) and actively identifying new technology that can improve efficiency of monitoring, auditing, and information transfer down through the supply chain
P3. Seeking high levels of throughput legitimacy, also known as “procedural legitimacy” or “governance with people”. High quality of the system’s conduct in implementation and enforcement
C3.1 Fairness in conduct: Procedures are implemented and enforced according to rules that feel fair to all. Fairness may be summarized with concepts as impartiality, neutrality, rule of law, justice, and accountability in how the rules are enforced, with no knowledge assumed about the person abiding the rules. Include a mechanism for resolving conflicts
C3.2 Truthfulness and transparency: Unfalsified, un-manipulated, updated, transparent and easily accessible documentation of principles for participation, decision-making processes, resource use efficiency and performance, including data, information and knowledge and transfer of documentation through the supply chain
C3.3 Absence of negatives: No corruption, nepotism, structural racism, sexism, or arbitrariness in decision making and communication or in conduct of implementation and enforcement activities
  1. The contents are based on sources given in Additional file 1: Table S1 [135, 173, 188, 193, 201,202,203, 224,225,226] and underpinning arguments and references given in the main text. The P&C are ideally embedded in an adaptive governance framework (Fig. 8)