OECD Sustainable Development Studies

2074-3262 (online)
2074-3270 (print)
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Presents a series of studies on various aspects of sustainable development.
Conducting Sustainability Assessments

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11 June 2008
9789264047266 (PDF) ;9789264047259(print)

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This volume reviews the state of the art in conducting sustainability assessments, including the range of methodologies and tools available. It describes current practice in OECD countries, as well as the continuing debate on quantifying and comparing diverse types of short- and long-term policy impacts. 
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  • Foreword
    This report contains the proceedings of an OECD workshop on Sustainability Assessment Methodologies held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on 14-15 January 2008. The workshop was organised under the auspices of the OECD Horizontal Programme on Sustainable Development in co-operation with the European Commission (EC).
  • Workshop Overview
    The OECD workshop on Sustainability Assessment Methodologies was held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on 14-15 January 2008. The workshop was organised by the OECD Horizontal Programme for Sustainable Development in co-operation with the European Commission (EC) and with participation by the OECD Public Governance Directorate (on regulatory impact assessments) and the OECD Development Cooperation Directorate (on poverty impact assessments).
  • Sustainability Impact Assessment: European Approaches
    Generally, impact assessments must be seen as a tool that addresses important governance challenges, like informed (or knowledge-based) decision-making, policy integration, strategic management, transparency and stakeholder participation. The growing acceptance of sustainable development as overarching policy goal has recently stimulated much interest in methods and tools that assess the impacts of sustainable development policies. This paper will provide a definition and overview of different impact assessment approaches; describe the integrated impact assessment system developed and applied by the European Commission; and present two case studies of Switzerland and Belgium to show the application to national policy-making.
  • Sustainability Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment
    This paper firstly defines the terms strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and sustainability impact assessment (SIA) and highlights the common features of and the differences between these two instruments. Secondly, it touches upon the shift from SEA to SIA currently happening in many countries. Thirdly, it sums up lessons learned from SEA practice in Austria and draws conclusions for the Austrian approach to SIA.
  • Sustainability Impact Assessment and Regulatory Impact Assessment
    Driven by more complex and complicated policy challenges, persistent problems, and conflicting interests, the desire for rooting policy-making in the available stock of knowledge and applying supporting techniques and procedures has grown. Impact Assessments (IA) are increasingly promoted and implemented in recent years at the European Union (EU) level and in member states. They are understood as attempts, procedures and tools to assess, usually ex ante, the effects of policies on the physical and societal environment, notably on the dimensions of sustainable development.
  • The Sustainability A-Test
    Assessment tools play an important role in decision-making processes. The variety of tools that can be used to carry out assessments is huge. Each tool has its own specific qualities and contributes in a particular way. Each tool can be used to address different issues, including costs and benefits, short and long-term effects, global competitiveness and many more key aspects in relation to sustainable development.
  • The Role of Tools in Impact Assessments
    The Impact Assessment (IA) procedure of the European Commission (EC) consists of three major steps which are usually accompanied by stakeholder consultation. Planning the Impact Assessment, which is also the beginning of the first step, starts with the Commission’s Strategic Planning and Programming Cycle. The first step ends with conducting the impact analysis which goes into Inter-Service Consultation alongside the proposal. Steps two and three mainly set out how the Impact Assessment is employed throughout the decision-making process.
  • Using Assessment Tools in the Policy Context
    The use of assessment tools in the context of how policy staff normally works and, therefore, the working environment in which any tools may be required to operate is an important consideration. This analysis of that working environment, which is based on experiences in the United Kingdom, shows that good project management must be accompanied by certain controls and that assessment tools can have varying results depending on the context. The most useful tools are those which can be used from time to time, rather than requiring a consistent process over time, and those which are tailored to specific policies, rather than attempting to integrate multiple policies.
  • Balancing Interests in Sustainability Assessments
    In Measure 22 of the Sustainable Development Strategy 2002, the Swiss government (Federal Council) issued a mandate for the development of a set of tools which could be deployed at an early stage of political projects and initiatives in order to assess and optimize them from the sustainable development perspective. In 2004, the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE), which provides the Confederation's sustainable development policy coordination platform, published a conceptual framework and basic methodology for assessing the sustainability of the Federal Government's political initiatives (ARE, 2004).
  • Assessing the Energy Contributions to Sustainability
    "Ecodevelopment", which first came into use in the 1970s, is intended to reconcile economic and ecological approaches to growth. International conferences started to gather constituencies dedicated to the environment and to the economy as in Stockholm in 1972. There was strong reaction to the word "ecodevelopment"; translation of this new concept into action was interpreted as saying that nature may be as important as money.
  • Assessing the Sustainability of Trade Policies and Agreements
    Economic globalisation and the liberalisation of international trade have generated widespread concern not only for their economic impacts but also for their potential impacts on the environment and for their social impacts, particularly on the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society. There is a high level of public awareness of the potential impact of trade liberalisation on sustainable development, reflected in such issues as "fair" trade in terms of the distribution of the economic gains from trade; "sustainable" trade in renewable natural resources; and "decent work" standards to protect against the exploitation of labour. Trade negotiators need to give careful consideration to the environmental and social consequences of trade agreements.
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