UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Just Transformations to Sustainability Bennett, Nathan J.; Blythe, Jessica; Cisneros-Montemayor, Andrés M.; Singh, Gerald G.; Sumaila, Ussif Rashid


Transformations towards sustainability are needed to address many of the earth’s profound environmental and social challenges. Yet, actions taken to deliberately shift social–ecological systems towards more sustainable trajectories can have substantial social impacts and exclude people from decision-making processes. The concept of just transformations makes explicit a need to consider social justice in the process of shifting towards sustainability. In this paper, we draw on the transformations, just transitions, and social justice literature to advance a pragmatic framing of just transformations that includes recognitional, procedural and distributional considerations. Decision-making processes to guide just transformations need to consider these three factors before, during and after the transformation period. We offer practical and methodological guidance to help navigate just transformations in environmental management and sustainability policies and practice. The framing of just transformations put forward here might be used to inform decision making in numerous marine and terrestrial ecosystems, in rural and urban environments, and at various scales from local to global. We argue that sustainability transformations cannot be considered a success unless social justice is a central concern.

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