Is individuals’ surplus time a feasible end point indicator for sustainable development?

Report no 2024:02
Tuesday, 12 March, 2024

Sustainable development is multidimensional. UN has 17 Sustainable Development Goals and a multitude of targets and indicators. However, choices made for implementing sustainable development frequently require aggregation of indicators. The aim of this work is to test the feasibility of using individuals’ surplus time as a single end point indicator. The time we mean is the time individuals have left when they have satisfied their basic needs without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their needs. The time needed for sustainably satisfying basic needs is determined as the sum of unpaid time, paid time, and compensation time. The concept of Decent Living Standards is used as a proxy for basic needs satisfaction and to make the indicator assessment operable. The feasibility of the indicator is evaluated by life cycle assessment of four different consumption choices. We find that surplus time maximization is a feasible functional indicator of the SDGs, primarily for product development, but also useful in other contexts. Using individual surplus time as an indicator will not only allow a trade-off between environmental and economical aspects, but also include individuals own, unpaid time. This may e.g., lead to new views on poverty and wealth.

Bengt Steen, Chalmers University of Technology. Tomas Rydberg and Stefan Åström, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.