Links between the social and environmental pillars of sustainable development (SD Pillars)

Funded by: European Commission : DG Employment


February 2007 to April 2008

PSI researchers:

Background, summary and aims

Background and Aims

In developing policy within the framework of sustainable development, it is important that economic, environmental and social considerations are taken into account. There is a growing recognition that social issues need to be better recognised when developing environmental policy, and similarly that initiatives to reduce social exclusion and promote opportunities for different communities need to recognise the wider environmental issues that they might impact on.

Against this background, the aim of this study is to assess the interactions between social and environmental policies across the European Union; to identify where such policies mutually reinforce both the social and environmental objectives of sustainable development. In addition to identifying positive interactions, negative interactions will also be identified, where social policy conflicts with the objectives of environmental policy, or vice versa.

PSI is one of five European institutions collaborating on this consultancy project for DG Employment, which is being coordinated by AEA Energy and Environment.

Project Design

The project comprises five complementary work-packages:

  • An assessment of the relative impacts of different socio-economic groups on the environment, and the distributional impacts of environmental taxes and charges.
  • An assessment of the distribution of environmental impacts on different socio-economic groups.
  • An assessment of the negative and positive interactions between social and environmental policy, and how negative interactions can be reduced and positive interactions enhanced.
  • The identification of potential sustainable development indicators that incorporate both social and environmental concerns.
  • The evaluation and synthesis of the findings from the different work packages, in order to provide policy makers with an understanding of the current social-environmental policy interactions, and how positive interactions can be strengthened.

A case-study approach is adopted for the analysis, focusing on six EU member states: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Importance of Research

It is expected that the findings of this study will provide an understanding of the current policy interactions at the different levels of local, regional, national and European government, and inform how policy interactions can be developed to ensure both the social and environmental objectives can be met without significant conflict.


The project reports are available here