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Call for papers: Environmental Science and Policy; Special issue on “DEA-based index systems for addressing the United Nations’ SDGs”

Guest editors:

Vincent Charles, School of Management, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK,

Ali Emrouznejad, Centre for Business Analytics in Practice, Surrey Business School, The University of Surrey, Guildford, UK,



The global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, as extensions of the UN Millennium Development Goals. These SDGs contain 17 goals and 169 targets aimed at “ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all” (UN, 2018). Governments, private companies, organisations, and civil societies have been challenged to work together until 2030 to accelerate the progress towards achieving sustainable development.

Special issue information:

Achieving sustainable development is, therefore, a massive, complex, and ongoing task and one of the first steps in the assessment of whether goals can be met by 2030 involves the development of methods and tools to monitor the SDGs’ progress (Cristóbal et al., 2021; Nhamo et al., 2020). However, quantifying the level of sustainability attained by a system (be it a nation, region, sector, or business) is a challenging task due to the need to consider a wide range of economic, environmental, and social aspects simultaneously (Galán-Martín et al., 2016).

Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) has been shown to be a well-established promising tool for such purposes, especially because it considers each sustainability dimension separately and can handle a large number of indicators. DEA is an optimisation-based management science technique for identifying the best practices of a group of decision-making units (DMUs) whose performance is categorised by multiple performance metrics that are classified as inputs and outputs. The construction of composite indicators, in particular, is a stream of research in the DEA literature for assessing sustainable development that has been gaining traction in recent times (Zakari et al., 2022). This is because indices are easy to communicate and can measure multi-dimensional concepts that may not share common units of measurement.

Studies aimed at examining sustainability using DEA have started to emerge (Chuai et al., 2021; Xu & Yao, 2022), although they are still scarce. However, when it comes to building (composite) indices using DEA, most of the existing studies have only looked at a specific dimension of the SDGs, for example, food supply/SDG2 (Lucas et al., 2021), health/SDG3 (Habib & Shahwan, 2020), energy/SDG7 (Zakari et al., 2022), or CO2 emissions/SDG13 (De Castro Camioto et al., 2014).

Therefore, the topic of this Special Issue is very timely, and it is expected that contributed articles will be of interest to a wide audience, from academics to practitioners, NGOs, and governmental bodies. It is expected that the research papers will assist relevant decision and policymakers in their attempt to measure sustainability and design policies aimed at raising the level of efficiency of current SDG policies, identifying and engaging in best practices, and allocating governmental resources – ultimately, with the overarching aim of achieving sustainable development.

This Special Issue welcomes original research articles of high quality that focus on building robust DEA-based index systems to measure and benchmark the SDGs across a variety of empirical contexts. The papers can use different theoretical lenses in the way they approach the conceptualisation and measurement of sustainability. For example, the papers can build upon literature on institutional theory, participation and community development, and global value chains, among others. Theoretical, conceptual, methodological, and empirical research studies are encouraged. The development of new or enhanced solutions are of considerable interest. Contributions from both the academic and the practitioner communities are supported.

Manuscript submission information:

Submission Deadline: July 31, 2023

You are invited to submit your manuscript at any time before the submission deadline. For any inquiries about the appropriateness of contribution topics, please contact Managing Guest Editor: Prof. Vincent Charles.

The journal’s submission platform (Editorial Manager®) is now available for receiving submissions to this Special Issue. Please refer to the Guide for Authors to prepare your manuscript and select the article type of “VSI:DEA for SDGs” when submitting your manuscript online.


Cristóbal, J., et al. (2021). Unraveling the links between public spending and Sustainable Development Goals: Insights from data envelopment analysis. Science of The Total Environment, 786, 147459.

Chaudhry, I. S., Ali, S., Bhatti, S. H., Answer, M. K., Khan, A. I., & Nazar, R. (2021). Dynamic common correlated effects of technological innovations and institutional performance on environmental quality: Evidence from East-Asia and Pacific countries. Environmental Science & Policy, 124, 313-323.

Chuai, X., Gao, R., Li, J., Guo, X., Lu, Q., Zhang, M., Zhang, X., & Liu, Y. (2021). A new meta-coupling framework to diagnose the inequity hidden in China’s cultivated land use. Environmental Science & Policy, 124, 635-644.

De Castro Camioto, F., Barberio Mariano, E., & do Nascimento Rebelatto, D. A. (2014). Efficiency in Brazil’s industrial sectors in terms of energy and sustainable development. Environmental Science & Policy, 37, 50-60.

Galán-Martín, A., Guillén-Gosálbez, G., Stamford, L., & Azapagic, A. (2016). Enhanced data envelopment analysis for sustainability assessment: A novel methodology and application to electricity technologies. Computers & Chemical Engineering, 90, 188-200.

Habib, A. M., & Shahwan, T. M. (2020). Measuring the operational and financial efficiency using a Malmquist data envelopment analysis: a case of Egyptian hospitals. Benchmarking: An International Journal, 27(9), 2521-2536.

Lucas, E., Galán-Martín, A., Pozo, C., Guo, M., & Guillén-Gosálbez, G. (2021). Science of The Total Environment. 755, Part 1, 142826.

Nhamo, L., Mabhaudhi, T., Mpandeli, S., Dickens, C., Nhemachena, C., Senzanje, A., Naidoo, D., Liphadzi, S., & Modi, A. T. (2020). An integrative analytical model for the water-energy-food nexus: South Africa case study. Environmental Science & Policy, 109, 15-24.

Sarra, A., Mazzocchitti, M., & Nissi, E. (2020). Optimal regulatory choices in the organization of solid waste management systems: Empirical evidence and policy implications. Environmental Science & Policy, 114, 636-444.

Retrieved from

Xu, Z., & Yao, L. (2022). Opening the black box of water-energy-food nexus system in China: Prospects for sustainable consumption and security. Environmental Science and Policy. Environmental Science & Policy, 127, 66-76.


Sustainable development goals, economic dimension, social dimension, environmental dimension, best practice, policy, optimisation, benchmarking, composite indicators, data envelopment analysis

Learn more about the benefits of publishing in a special issue:

Submission deadline: July 31, 2023

Special Issue Editors:

 Professor V. Charles
School of Management,
University of Bradford,
Professor A. Emrouznejad
Centre for Business Analytics in Practice  Surrey Business School,
The University of Surrey,
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