Table of Contents

Handbook of Sustainability Assessment

Handbook of Sustainability Assessment

Research Handbooks on Impact Assessment series

Edited by Angus Morrison-Saunders, Jenny Pope and Alan Bond

The Handbook of Sustainability Assessment introduces the theory and practice of sustainability assessment and showcases the state-of-the-art research. The aim is to provide inspiration and guidance to students, academics and practitioners alike and to contribute to the enhancement of sustainability assessment practice worldwide. It emphasises how traditional impact assessment practices can be enhanced to contribute to sustainable outcomes. Featuring original contributions from leading sustainability assessment researchers and practitioners, it forms part of the Research Handbooks on Impact Assessment series.

Chapter 6: Sustainability assessment at the policy level

Camilla Adelle and Sabine Weiland

Subjects: business and management, management and sustainability, environment, environmental management, environmental sociology


The ex ante assessment of policies is now standard practice in the member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union (EU). These assessment procedures are primarily used to pursue a number of different objectives such as improving the quality of regulation and reducing regulatory burden as well as improving economic competitiveness. The scope of these generic assessment systems has been broadened in many countries to also integrate the consideration of sustainable development impacts. However, only a few countries currently have dedicated procedures at the policy level for the assessment of sustainable development impacts which are fully institutionalised, and so routinely practised, across the whole of government (OECD, 2011). More integrated forms of policy assessment can arguably be supportive of sustainable development for a number of reasons. First, policy assessment aims to make policy making more evidence based and inform decision makers about possible effects and trade-offs of policy options early on in the policy process, including environmental and social impacts (OECD, 2011). Second, by generating information on possible spill-overs of policy options across a multitude of sectors, the transparency and coordination of the policy process are improved so that contributions to sustainability are disclosed and communicated (Russel and Turnpenny, 2009). Third, by increasing stakeholder participation in the decision-making process policy assessment can help to reflect a wide range of sustainability considerations (OECD, 2011).

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