The increasing scarcity of natural resources prompts the need to develop effective strategies for sustainable development at regional levels with a view to balancing the interests of different groups of actors or stakeholders. This study aims to address the stakeholders' multifaceted viewpoints on future sustainable development, mainly at regional scales. To this end, five experimental test cases - in the form of five different case studies in Europe - are analyzed, to encapsulate different approaches and different needs for sustainable development. A 'pentagon model' is used to represent systematically five critical aspects of sustainability. To analyze the trade-offs and synergies between different objectives on sustainable development, four distinct scenarios - competitiveness; continuity; capacity; and coherence - reflecting distinct and relevant images of sustainability are presented. The relative merits of these four scenarios are empirically assessed by means of a particular type of multi-criteria analysis: namely, regime analysis. The analysis is carried out by ranking different attributes of sustainable development, i.e. social, economic, ecological, institutional profile, and physical, from the perspective of different stakeholders. We find that the most preferred sustainable future is the coherence scenario, in which a combination of ecological and social aspects is the most important determinants. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.