Fresh off the press: Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making: Tools and Approaches for EPA

A new report from the National Research Council Committee on Scientific Tools and Approaches for Sustainability is available to download.  The Committee aimed to address seven key aspects of implementing tools and approaches that would be used in the Sustainability Assessment and Management (SAM) process, with the specific charge to focus on analytic and scientific tools, methods, and approaches and not recommend specific policy choices.

Excerpted from the Preface, prepared by Michael C. Kavanaugh, Committee Chair:

Interest in sustainability outside EPA continues to grow in intensity. Given that intense interest in sustainability issues in all sectors of society, why haven’t the concepts already been integrated into decision-making in federal regulatory agencies, including EPA? That question...highlights the fact that integration of environmental, economic, and social factors into federal decision-making can face many barriers, such as disagreements over the appropriate spatial and temporal regimes for sustainability analyses.

In providing broadly applicable actionable advice to EPA on sustainability tools and approaches, the committee recognizes that the incorporation of sustainability into EPA decision-making will be an evolutionary process.

As noted in EPA’s risk-framework document, sustainability is among several factors that inform  risk-management decisions. The committee hopes, however, that consideration of sustainability factors will play an increasing and more influential role in reaching difficult risk-management decisions, including a much broader assessment of tradeoffs that go beyond the boundaries of a single pillar, within the social, environmental, and economic pillars. The urgency of this journey is unavoidable in the face of several  megatrends that are highlighted in the report as well as the inevitable challenges in meeting US and global  economic and social needs while managing the risks to current and future generations associated with those actions. It is my hope that this report will provide an additional foundation for EPA’s journey in leading the  efforts to achieve a more sustainable future.

Find a link to download the report in the SURF resources, or visit the National Academies Press.