Criteria for Environmental Decision-Making Processes


  • Compliance with Local Environmental Laws
  • Compliance with National Environmental Laws
  • Compliance with Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs)
  • Meeting the objectives (e.g. 3R, Remediation, Rehabilitation, etc.)

    Technical Suitability

  • Compatibility with local Natural Conditions(Geographical, Climate)
  • Extent of local materials usage
  • Availability of local expertise
  • Track record on performance
  • Compatibility with existing situation (technology, management systems)
  • Adaptability to future situations
  • Process Stability
  • Level of Automation / Sophistication

    Environment, Health and Safety Risks

  • Risk levels for workers
  • Risk levels for communities / beneficiaries
  • Risk to the environment e.g. to biodiversity

    Environment: Resources and Emissions

  • Resource Usage
  • Space Requirement
  • Energy Consumption per unit
  • Extent of use of renewable energy
  • Extent of use of waste materials as input
  • Water Consumption
  • Raw Material Consumption
  • Resource Augmentation Capabilities
  • Emissions
  • Odour
  • Extent of use of Hazardous Materials

    Economic / Financial Aspects

  • Capital Investment
  • Operation and Maintenance Costs
  • Benefits (Energy, fertilizer, reclaimed land, enhanced biodiversity)

    Social / Cultural Aspects

  • Acceptability
  • Extent of necessary resettlement and rehabilitation of people
  • Income Generation Potential

    Environment: Resources and Emissions

  • Land/Space Requirement
  • Energy Consumption: Fuel, Electricity, Steam
  • Raw Materials Consumption
  • Water Consumption
  • Emissions

    Noise and Vibrations

  • Noise levels near installation during operation

    Economic / Financial Aspects

  • Capital Costs
  • Operation and maintenance costs
  • Benefits (Energy, fertilizer, reclaimed land, enhanced biodiversity, Carbon credits)
  • Economic Viability

Any developmental decision has an impact on the environment. The range of impacts and effects that need to be taken into consideration is very broad and complex. This quick guide provides a list of criteria for reference. It is in no way complete, as each decision to be taken is unique. The list can be adopted and modified to the specific situation, locale and scale in which the decision is taken.

As the list shows, the fundamental question to be asked is if the decision protects the environment? The decision will have to be in compliance with local, national and regional environmental standards or internationally recognized standards (e.g. ISO), and with relevant multilateral environmental agreements. The cumulative air, water and waste emissions and the decisions' ecological footprint will also have to be considered.

The proposed activity's overall impact on ecosystem health and integrity should be analysed, along with more detailed and micro impacts, such as compatibility with immediate and adjoining facilities and systems and potential for geomorphological, landscape and ecohydrological impacts

Most activities produce wastes and pollution in some form or the other. Is the proposed activity less polluting, and handles wastes in a more acceptable manner? To verify this, information on the total quantities of wastes (solid, water gaseous) generated should be collected, including toxic and secondary pollutants/byproducts.

Noise/vibration generation can also be a factor that affects decision-making, particularly when the surrounding communities and environment is considered. Thermal losses and radiation emissions may also need to be considered in appropriate cases.

Many national and local governments have strict laws and regulations on waste (air, water, and solid) treatment and disposal requirements. These will have to be effectively taken into consideration, along with any potential for long range transport of pollutants. Depending on the activity, there could be disposal costs for unmarketable byproducts and wastes, and potential for soil, water and air contamination that will have to accounted for.

In terms of resource use, the proposed activity will have to use all resources in a more sustainable manner. To achieve this goal, efficiency of energy, water and materials use, relative to the product or service provided need to be taken into account. In considering the life-cycle of the entire product cycle, the 'useful life' of technology, and of products/services will be an important criteria.

Relative use of renewable/non-renewable resources, and conservation of water, including portion of recycled water used will increase the overall long-term sustainability of the proposed activity. Other criteria include, for example, use of - environmentally-friendly materials, or sustainable use of local resources.

With increasing attention being placed on the 3Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle - the proposed activity will have to demonstrate higher rates of recycling its products and wastes. This has to be done through the use of recycled, reused and waste materials and byproducts, incorporation of closed loop processes. Such decisions will affect the quantity of byproduct recovered and its overall life cycle performance

The proposed activity will also have to handle residual wastes in a more acceptable manner, taking into consideration the cost of pollution abatement and waste disposal costs.

Finally, the quality and quantity of the information itself used to take the decision will have to be questioned. Is the proposed activity characterized by verified and verifiable information? Information on compliance with fundamental scientific and engineering principles and performance at different settings and different locations (including sensitivity to specific operating conditions) will affect the decision to be taken. The information to be used will have to be reliable, replicable, taking into consideration the potential for system failure, and the risks and uncertainties. Information verified by third parties will increase its overall usablity

   Environmental Decision-Making