Documents 2021/11

A taxonomy for indicators related to the Sustainable Development Goals

In this document we present a taxonomy for classification of indicators related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), commissioned by KS.

Our point of departure has been to identify the central properties and characteristics of an indicator or an indicator set that we regard as necessary to establish for the various uses relevant to the SDGs. In the proposed taxonomy they are organised under three dimensions

  • Goal, which tells us what an indicator is about, i.e., which SDG goals and targets, and which TBL (Triple Bottom Line) it may be related to.
  • Perspective, which clarifies why or in which context the indicator is used (the user’s perspective).
  • Quality, which measures how useful the indicator is, i.e., if it is fit-for-purpose. 

These three overarching dimensions give the taxonomy a clear and logical structure. They cover all the relevant elements in other classification systems, which we have come across in the literature. Changes in future user needs, which most likely will take place, can be accommodated by adjusting certain elements of the relevant part of the taxonomy, without the need to alter the basic structure.  

Applying the same taxonomy to all indicators helps to clarify and compare both their uses and their usability, for users who work in different sectors or at different geographical levels. It can also make it easier to reuse the indicators that have been classified and evaluated by other users.

We have developed the taxonomy in close collaboration with KS, with the emphasis of developing a tool that is practical and helpful at the regional or local level. Meanwhile, the taxonomy is designed generically, in a way that makes it equally well suited for users at a national or global level.

This document is organised in four Sections. Section 1 provides a general introduction to this work. Section 2 presents the taxonomy, along with explanations and discussions and a selection of Questions and Answers that may be helpful to the reader. Section 3 contains a review of the literature, where the reader will also find further details on several issues underlying the proposed taxonomy. Finally, in Section 4, we illustrate the practical considerations a user may need to take when applying the taxonomy, by employing four examples related to public transport, sewage, wind power and school, respectively.

The document is a slightly reworked English translation of the publication in Norwegian: «Taksonomi for klassifisering av indikatorer til bærekraftsmålene» (SSB, Notater 2021/03).   

Download the taxonomy as an infographic in pdf-format.


About the publication


A taxonomy for indicators related to the Sustainable Development Goals

Series and number

Documents 2021/11


Statistisk sentralbyrå


Methods and documentation

ISBN (online)




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About Documents

Documentation, descriptions of methods, models and standards are published in the series Documents.