Sustainability assessment is a modern framing of impact assessment that places importance on achieving real net sustainability additions immediately and into the future. It can be delivered to any type of decision-making, can take several forms, and is essentially pluralistic[1]. Sustainability assessment can be clearly known as any process that directs decision-making towards sustainability, this definition includes many potential forms of decision-making from choices of individuals in daily life through to projects, plans, programs, and policies more familiarly marked in the areas of impact assessment[2]&[3]. The variety of sustainability assessment practice is reflected in the increase of sustainability reporting in recent years and published works employing the terminology ‘sustainability assessment’, and much relevant research also uses alternative vocabulary such as sustainability appraisal, integrated assessment, or sustainability impact assessment. Sustainability assessment has been appeared as the third generation of impact assessment, following environmental impact assessment (EIA) and strategic environmental assessment (SEA)[4]. it’s thinking and techniques can apply in processes that fall completely outside the field of impact assessment, including evaluations of existing practices. sustainability assessment is best considered an umbrella expression containing a range of impact assessment system.

Sustainability assessment is based on many steps to be followed that are meant to provide inputs to decision-making on new development-related activities. Sustainability assessment practice differs considerably depending upon the make of decision-making to which it is applied and the legal and governance structures of a particular jurisdiction, for example in England there is a legal requirement for sustainability assessment, in Western Australia sustainability assessment practice is developing on a voluntary basis, in South Africa, the relevant legislation is interpreted as having sustainability goals, and in Canada practice varies from one territory to the next, as well as from one project to the next in the case of Joint Review Panels[5].

England was one of the first countries to require a sustainability assessment which was called sustainability appraisal, which developed from environmental appraisal applied to development plans, to include social and economic issues and ended to a legal requirement to conduct sustainability appraisal of development plans in the Planning. Western Australia’s government are developing sustainability assessments since 2002 when published the draft Sustainability Strategy which including a commitment to undertake sustainability assessments of complicated and strategic projects the sustainability goals evolved from minimization of negative impacts coupled with suitable offsets to a goal of saving critical thresholds and delivering positive gains across the three pillars of sustainable development. sustainability assessment practice has changed towards proponent-driven forms where the emphasis is on minimizing negative impacts and therefore reducing corporate risk, as well as maintaining a social license to operate.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering the adoption of a ‘sustainability assessment and management process that would follow all the classic steps in the existing EIA process which extends around the world including at least 191 countries[6] to include e.g., screening, scoping, analysis, stakeholder involvement, approval decision-making, etc.) with a weight on the following three key characteristics, where the sustainability assessment should be[7]:

  • Comprehensive and systems-based: Analysis of alternative options should include an integrated evaluation of the social, environmental, and economic consequences.
  • Intergenerational: The long-term consequences of alternatives should be evaluated in addition to the more immediate consequences.
  • Stakeholder engagement and collaboration: Stakeholders should be involved throughout the process.

There are a huge number of present tools that can be usefully used in the Sustainability Assessment and Management process including risk assessment, life-cycle assessment, benefit-cost analysis, ecosystem services valuation, integrated assessment models, sustainability impact assessment, environmental justice tools, and present and future scenario tools, as the following[8]:

  1. A Risk Assessment tool is a tool broadly used for identifying adverse human health and ecologic effects.
  2. Life Cycle Assessment tool is a “cradle-to-grave” analysis or “cradle-to-cradle” or “cradle-to-gate” of environmental impacts from production, use, and eventual disposal of a product. it’s used to analyze the major environmental impacts of several products, to determine how differences in processes could reduce the environmental impact, and to compare the environmental impacts of different products
  3. Benefit-Cost Analysis tool is a widely used tool from economics to assess the net benefits of alternative decisions. it attempts to assess the change in benefit for everyone affected by a policy choice, measured in a common monetary metric, under a set of options.
  4. Ecosystem Services Valuations are goods and services that contribute to human well-being and are generated by ecosystem processes. It is used to better understand the provision of services as a consequence of the state of the ecosystem (“ecologic production functions”) along with economics and other social sciences to gain an understanding of how nature contributes to human well-being (“valuation”).
  5. Integrated Assessment Models are cross-disciplinary lines to merge theory and data from multiple disciplines to address complex environmental issues and modeling is the standard tool used for conducting an integrated assessment such as the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM), which began in the study of climate change, bringing together global circulation models and economic models to assess the probable benefits and costs of alternative energy- and climate policy choices.
  6. Sustainability Impact Assessment is used to analyze the likely impacts of a particular project or proposal on the social, environmental, and economic pillars of sustainability. This assessment is also used to develop integrated policies that take full account of the three sustainable development dimensions. it is used in many European countries and in Canada.
  7. Environmental Justice Tools are analytic methods for assessing whether communities are experiencing inordinately high environmental and health difficulties and for evaluating the sustainability of communities.
  8. Present Conditions and Future Scenario Tools, the Sustainability Assessment and Management method requires an evaluation of present and future conditions to show that present decisions and actions are not compromising future human and ecologic health and well-being. A requirement of these components, therefore, is to be able to forecast potential future conditions as a function of the decision option chosen.

 

 

 

Reference.

  1. Alan Bond, Angus Morrison-Saunders & Jenny Pope, 2012, Sustainability assessment: the state of the art, Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, Vol 30, 2012 – Issue 1. https://doi.org/10.1080/14615517.2012.661974
  2. Bond, A.J. and Morrison-Saunders, A. 2011. Re-evaluating sustainability assessment: aligning the vision and the practice. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 31(1): 1–7.
  3. Hacking, T. and Guthrie, P. 2008. A framework for clarifying the meaning of triple bottom-line, integrated, and sustainability assessment. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 28(2–3): 73–89.
  4. Sadler, B. 1999. “A framework for environmental sustainability assessment and assurance”. In Handbook of environmental impact assessment, Edited by Petts, J. 12–32. Oxford: Blackwell.
  5. Gibson, R.B. 2005. Sustainability assessment: criteria, processes and applications, London: Earthscan.
  6. Morgan, R. 2012. Environmental impact assessment: the state of the art. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 30(1) DOI: 10.1080/14615517.2012.661557
  7. 4 Sustainability Assessment and Management: Process, Tools, and Indicators.” National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.

[1] Alan Bond, Angus Morrison-Saunders & Jenny Pope, 2012, Sustainability assessment: the state of the art, Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, Vol 30, 2012 – Issue 1. https://doi.org/10.1080/14615517.2012.661974

[2] Bond, A.J. and Morrison-Saunders, A. 2011. Re-evaluating sustainability assessment: aligning the vision and the practice. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 31(1): 1–7.

[3] Hacking, T. and Guthrie, P. 2008. A framework for clarifying the meaning of triple bottom-line, integrated, and sustainability assessment. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 28(2–3): 73–89.

[4] Sadler, B. 1999. “A framework for environmental sustainability assessment and assurance”. In Handbook of environmental impact assessment, Edited by Petts, J. 12–32. Oxford: Blackwell.

[5] Gibson, R.B. 2005. Sustainability assessment: criteria, processes and applications, London: Earthscan.

[6] Morgan, R. 2012. Environmental impact assessment: the state of the art. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 30(1) DOI: 10.1080/14615517.2012.661557

[7] 4 Sustainability Assessment and Management: Process, Tools, and Indicators.” National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.

 

[8] 4 Sustainability Assessment and Management: Process, Tools, and Indicators.” National Research Council. 2011. Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13152.

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