Key Message

The complexity and dynamism of today's world calls for tools that can speak to the many dimensions of sustainability and, at the same time, enable practical application.


IISD Associate Jane Barr discusses the role of sustainability indicators in motivating decision-makers to act in the best interests of the environment, the economy, and society as a whole.
(Youtube - 3:49 min)

Integrated Assessment and Scenarios

Tools for navigating a rapidly changing society

Assessments in their many forms are designed to bring scientific perspectives to bear on the policy and decision-making process. The need for more credible and policy-relevant assessment is driven by the emergence of increasingly complex and urgent environmental issues that have a direct impact on ecosystems human well-being and represent a threat to economic performance of countries and corporations.

Integrated environmental assessment (IEA) involves a critical and objective analysis and clear communication of data on priority environmental trends and dynamics and their interactions with human well-being and economic development.

When we speak of "integrated," we are referring to assessment that crosses issues; spans scales of space and time; looks forward and back; and includes stakeholder perspectives. An integrated approach is timely as sustainability development is (or may be) increasingly policy-relevant or mainstream, and tools that help us understand the complexity inherent in sustainable development are needed.

In addition to helping us navigate a rapidly changing society, integrated assessment also is also an important precursor for adaptive management and governance. By connecting assessment with policy, information moves beyond pure science and becomes both salient and legitimate to decision-making processes. Inclusion of stakeholder perspectives ensures relevance, another criterion for sound assessment.

In order to move from recognition to implementation, institutions and practitioners need to grow in their capacity to use navigational tools like integrated environmental and sustainability assessments. Our work assists those in a position to implement assessments, primarily at national and regional scales.