Here are four answers to this question:
Conceptually, while everyone recognizes that sustainable development is conceived as a holistic and integrative concept, there are considerable ambiguities and interconnections among various facets of human activities, about the constituent elements of sustainability, and about the proverbial matter of ‘inter-linkages’. More importantly, there is as yet no overall view of the ways in which major forms of human activities generate problems, nor a coherent understanding of various solutions, social as well as technical. Disagreements persist regarding the ‘solutions’ to sustainability ‘problems’, and the conditions under which one alternative might be better than another. Mapping sustainability is a step in the direction of intellectual order and coherence as a means of unbundling the knowledge content of issues central to matters of ‘sustainable development’.
Strategically, mapping the knowledge domain for sustainable development is intended to help organize evolving knowledge about sustainability, in all its forms, and to make it more accessible to agents of change for public policy, business strategy and creative ventures. It is also designed to also facilitate access to cutting-edge analysis, innovative technologies, and multidisciplinary knowledge. So, too, we seek to facilitate opportunities for knowledge provision and sharing through experimenting with some form of ‘division of labor’ based on expertise and interests, so as to enable and/or encompass ‘voices’ from diverse perspectives worldwide.
Operationally, mapping sustainability provides a way of organizing knowledge about sustainability that is operational as well as replicable. It is a means of reducing barriers to the access of knowledge about sustainability, as well as a means of alerting us to situations in which the ‘solution’ of one problem is the source of another - exporting problems can seldom be the foundation for solutions.
Functionally, to the extent that the mapping "works", it provides the foundations for the design of web-based systems to enhance knowledge management, networking and sharing, devoted to ‘sustainable development’. This is very useful for educational purposes.