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 12: Setting and measuring objectives in sustainability assessment

Samuel Hayes and Thomas B. Fischer

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


Sustainability assessment can take several forms and has been defined in various ways (Pope et al., 2004; see also Chapter 2). Indeed, use of terms such as ‘sustainability assessment’, ‘strategic environmental assessment’ and ‘environmental impact assessment’ differs significantly; therefore, many examples of what might be considered sustainability assessment may be labelled differently. Internationally, examples of what can be described as sustainability assessment are found in Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong, Namibia, the State of Western Australia and England (Gibson, 2006a; Pope and Grace, 2006; Bond and Morrison-Saunders, 2011; Therivel and Fischer, 2012). This chapter will begin by discussing the development of sustainability assessment in England, which is here referred to as sustainability appraisal. Following the introductory section, we will consider some of the fundamental principles of the objectives-led approach, drawing on the experience of English sustainability appraisal. The influence of the definition of sustainability on objectives will be elaborated on, considering the balance between social, environmental and economic objectives. Next, the setting and use of objectives, the nature of assessment objectives, the breadth or scope of objectives set, the strength and clarity of objectives used and the measurement of objectives will be discussed.

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