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Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making: Tools and Approaches for the US Environmental Protection Agency (2014)

Chapter: Appendix E--Application of General Evaluation Criteria

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E--Application of General Evaluation Criteria." National Research Council. 2014. Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making: Tools and Approaches for the US Environmental Protection Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18949.
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Appendix E

Application of General Evaluation Criteria

Table E-1 was developed by the committee to illustrate the presentation of results from a ratings approach that uses a set of general evaluation criteria (see Chapter 3). The rows list the various tools presented in the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2013 report Sustainability Analytics: Assessment Tools and Approaches,1 and the columns list seven evaluation criteria. The table’s cells contain color-coded (red, yellow, or green) entries representing members’ opinions about the tools with respect to each criterion. Generally, a red entry in a cell suggests the rating of a tool is “low”, a yellow entry suggests “moderate”, and a green entry suggests “high”.

The ratings should be interpreted carefully. A tool with many red (“low”) entries is not intended to be designated as inappropriate for use in sustainability analyses, nor does it mean that a tool is not important. Instead, these low entries might suggest areas where additional investments would be valuable for further development (such as, to improve data or documentation for use). Ecosystem services valuation, for example, is seen as a critical and emerging tool in support of sustainability considerations, but has had relatively modest work and support to date. Likewise, tools with many green entries are not presumed by the committee to be most appropriate or most important for use in sustainability analyses. These tools, however, in our opinion, may be most ready to be used “off the shelf” in support of analyses.

It is important to note that the table is only an illustration of the kind of ongoing assessment that would be useful in developing and refining a full suite of sustainability assessment tools. The results in the table should not be considered as evaluative findings because they may have been influenced by the extent of the committee’s familiarity with the development and use of some of the tools.

____________________

1EPA 2013. Sustainability Analytics: Assessment Tools and Approaches. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC [online]. Available: http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/analytics/docs/sustainability-analytics.pdf [accessed April 16, 2014].

Suggested Citation:"Appendix E--Application of General Evaluation Criteria." National Research Council. 2014. Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making: Tools and Approaches for the US Environmental Protection Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18949.
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TABLE E-1 Illustration of Using a Consistent Set of Evaluation Criteria*,±

Tool Documentation Accepted Use Maturity Software Screening Data Extent of Usage
Benefit-cost analysis
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Eco-efficiency analysis
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Ecosystem services valuation
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Green accounting
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Collaborative problem-solving
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Design charrettes
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Environmental justice analysis
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Futures Methods
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Health impact assessment
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Segmentation analysis
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Social impact assessment
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Social network analysis
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Chemical alternatives assessment
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Environmental footprint analysis
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Exposure assessment
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Green chemistry
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Green engineering
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Integrated assessment modeling
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Life cycle assessment
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Resilience Analysis
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Risk Assessment
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Sustainability Impact Assessment
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*Legend: images = low, images = medium, images = high.

±The results in the table should not be considered as evaluative findings because they may have been influenced by the extent of the committee’s familiarity with the development and use of some of the tools.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix E--Application of General Evaluation Criteria." National Research Council. 2014. Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making: Tools and Approaches for the US Environmental Protection Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18949.
×
Page 136
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E--Application of General Evaluation Criteria." National Research Council. 2014. Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making: Tools and Approaches for the US Environmental Protection Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18949.
×
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In its current strategic plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes a cross-agency strategy to advance sustainable environmental outcomes and optimize economic and social outcomes through Agency decisions and actions. Sustainability has evolved from an aspiration to a growing body of practices. The evolution includes a transition from the development of broad goals toward the implementation of specific policies and programs for achieving them and the use of indicators and metrics for measuring progress. Without losing focus on implementing its existing regulatory mandates, EPA's incorporation of sustainability considerations into its decision-making about potential environmental, social, and economic outcomes involves shifting from a focus on specific pollutants in an environmental medium (air, water, or land) to a broader assessment of interactions among human, natural, and manufactured systems. EPA has indicated that it will need to consider the use of a variety of analytic tools and approaches to assess the potential sustainability-related effects of its decisions and actions in response to complex environmental challenges.

Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making: Tools and Approaches for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency examines scientific tools and approaches for incorporating sustainability concepts into assessments used to support EPA decision making. Using specific case studies, this report considers the application of analytic and scientific tools, methods, and approaches presented in the 2011 NRC report Sustainability and the U.S. EPA. This report examines both currently available and emerging tools, methods, and approaches to find those most appropriate for assessing and/or evaluating potential economic, social and environmental outcomes within an EPA decision context. Sustainability Concepts in Decision Making also discusses data needs and post-decision evaluation of outcomes on dimensions of sustainability. A broad array of sustainability tools and approaches are suitable for assessing potential environmental, social, and economic outcomes in EPA's decision-making context. The recommendations of this report will assist the agency to optimize environmental, social, and economic outcomes in EPA decisions.

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