Assessing sustainability within the federal government

According to the "Sustainable Development Strategy: Guidelines and Action Plan", the measures of the action plan must be subjected to a sustainability assessment to find out how they comply with the principles of sustainable development. It is also recommended for other major government initiatives.

Together with a steering committee composed of ISDC members, the ARE has developed Guidelines for Sustainability Assessments. They are intended as instructions on how to evaluate Federal Government initiatives (laws, programmes, strategies, concepts and projects) to find out how they comply with the principles of sustainable development. The Guidelines build on the existing sustainability assessment methodology and explain the steps involved in an assessment in an easy-to-follow way. The Guidelines also provide a new tool, in the familiar Excel format, to help with relevance analyses and simple sustainability assessments.

Sustainability assessments meet the need for a balanced consideration of the three target dimensions of sustainable development, and create transparency about the decisions that are taken and the reasons for them. They thus help to provide an open and comprehensive decision-making basis for the policy process. The issue here is less whether or not an initiative is sustainable in absolute terms, but rather how it can be optimised from the sustainable development perspective.

Sustainability assessments overlap with other evaluation instruments such as regulatory impact analyses (RIAs) and economic assessments (VOBUs).