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Challenges in sustainability assessment: issues for capacity building

Morrison-Saunders, A., Annandale, D. and Jenkins, B. (2003) Challenges in sustainability assessment: issues for capacity building. In: Building capacity for impact assessment, 23rd Annual Meeting of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA), 17 - 20 June, Marrakech, Morocco.

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The purpose of sustainability assessment (also known as ‘integrated’ or ‘triple-bottom-line’ assessment) is to simultaneously analyse the impacts of a proposal on a combination of environmental, social and economic receptors. This paper presents some challenges for sustainability assessment. It is based on recent experience in Western Australia where the State government is attempting to develop the capacity to implement sustainability assessment. A number of challenges will be addressed as follows.

(i) How will sustainability assessment of projects be undertaken? Capacity for social and economic impact assessment and overall sustainability criteria may need to be developed to complement existing environmental impact assessment processes.
(ii) When should trade-offs between environmental losses and socio-economic gains occur in the assessment process?
(iii) In sustainability assessment of projects, how will mitigation and management actions that transcend the proponent's project site and its responsibilities (e.g., provision of social infrastructure and issues such as equity in employment and wealth distribution) be treated? A role for government agencies is apparent here.
(iv) How will strategic proposals and regional land use planning be treated during sustainability assessment? Developing regional sustainability strategies and management plans may offer a practical solution.
(v) How will existing unsustainable practices (e.g., current land uses and activities that degrade land, water and air resources) be remedied? Establishing agency based sustainability action plans and State of Sustainability Reporting may provide solutions here.

In exploring these challenges for the implementation of sustainability assessment, implications for institutional reform and capacity building will be addressed.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Notes: For more information see journal article
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