Evidence-based Instruments


Does the government conduct effective sustainability checks within the framework of RIA?

Sustainability checks are an integral part of every RIA; they draw on an exhaustive set of indicators (including social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability) and track impacts from the short- to long-term.
In the United Kingdom, the whole RIA process aims to provide support for sustainable policymaking. The assessment is based on a wide range of different indicators, including social, environmental and ecological. However, economic indicators seem to be the most important. The assessments analyze the impact of regulation over several time periods (i.e. short, medium and long-term), and they attempt to take into account external shocks and irregular developments.

However, for arguably the most important and certainly most complex political project in a generation – Brexit – the government has so far not delivered a substantial sustainability assessment, although this does not preclude one being done in due course.
The RIAs have to cover all consequences, whether they be positive or negative, of an economic, administrative and environmental nature, affecting the state, municipalities, regions, business, citizens and relations to the European Union. This includes questions of sustainability. Sustainability is a central concern in government policy and includes economic, fiscal as well as environmental sustainability.
Cirkulære om bemærkninger til lovforslag og andre regeringsforslag og om fremganhsmåden ved udarbejdelse af lovforslag, redegørelser, administrative forskrifter m.v. https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=20940 (accessed 3 May 2013).
The Finnish government understands that regular and complete assessments of regulations are fundamental to the governing of complex and open societies and economies. In consequence, the country has a comprehensive regulatory impact assessment program in place. Also, Finland has formally adopted a regulatory impact assessment strategy that contains instructions to be carried out when drafting legislative proposals, complemented by separate instructions issued by ministries. Assessments involve the use of multiple indicator sets, various interests are consulted and different techniques used. Generally speaking, aspects of sustainability form an integral part of the assessment process. Variations between forecasts and actual outcomes are monitored over time.
New Zealand
Without using the term “sustainability,” the regulatory impact assessment (RIA) process includes major aspects of this concept’s underlying idea. Part of the quality-assurance monitoring process is to check whether all substantive economic, social and environmental impacts have been identified (and quantified where feasible). In addition, it is an integral part of RIAs to plan for regulatory-instrument reviews that consider the following issues: Is there still a problem (and is it the one originally identified)? Are objectives being met? Are the impacts as expected? Are there any unforeseen problems? Are there any indirect effects that were not anticipated? Is intervention still required? Is the current intervention still the most appropriate, or would another measure be more suitable?
Regulatory Impact Analysis Handbook (Wellington: The Treasury 2013).
Sustainability checks lack one of the three criteria.
The potential environmental effects of legislative proposals have to be evaluated as a part of regulatory impact assessments, as do effects on employment. Various decrees require that financial and other issues be assessed. Analysis may focus on the short, medium or long term according to specific RIA legal requirements, but is commonly focused on a period of five years.

The country does feature an overarching sustainability strategy, but this is still relatively underdeveloped. The government tends to give much lip service to the ideas behind sustainability but violates its rhetoric in practice by giving in to special interests. This reflects the dominant tendency in public debate to promote sustainability as long as it does not contradict special interests. The consequences of the FPÖ’s entry into the coalition government cannot be predicted.
In October 2016, Chancellor Merkel (re)appointed the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE). The RNE consists of 15 people selected by the chancellor. Its role is to contribute to the implementation of the National Sustainability Strategy by identifying areas for action, developing specific project proposals and by increasing awareness on the importance of sustainability issues. Six members were newly appointed in October 2016 and the remaining members were reconfirmed. The RNE independently chooses its array of topics and actions.

In addition, the parliamentary Council for Sustainable Development (Parlamentarische Beirat für nachhaltige Entwicklung, PBnE) supervises the government’s sustainability strategy. Its political influence appears moderate and its primary task is to act as an advocate for long-term responsibility in the business of government. The PBnE was established in 2004 and must be reconstituted after every parliamentary election. On the whole, neither the RNE nor the PBnE are well integrated into the RIA framework.

According to the 2017 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Index, jointly developed by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Germany ranked six out of 157 countries.
Sustainable Development Goals Index 2017:


In the Netherlands, RIAs are broadly and effectively applied in two fields: environmental impact assessments (EIMs) and administrative burden reduction assessments (ABRAs). EIMs have been legally mandated since 1987. Anyone who needs a government license for initiating substantial spatial or land-use projects with potentially harmful environmental impacts is obliged to research and disclose potential project impacts. More than 1,000 EIM reports have been administratively and politically processed. They guarantee that environmental and sustainability considerations play a considerable role in government decision-making. However, environmental impact assessments are sometimes subordinated to economic impact assessments. There are no systematic social – or, for example, health – impact assessments. In 2017, the DNB (Dutch state bank) announced checks on whether firms in the financial sector have sufficiently explored the risks of climate change in their policies. In the water sector, similar stress tests of policies by water management boards, and municipal and local water management/emergency plans are being prepared.
NRC.next, “DNB waarschuwt financiële sector voor risico’s klimaatverandering, 4 October 2017”

Kennisportaal Ruimtelijke Adaptatie, “Verpliche stresstest wateroverlast voor waterschappen en gemeenten,” consulted 12 October 2017
Canada does not have a formally adopted sustainability strategy. In a sense, this is not surprising, as there are different types of sustainability (environmental, economic, social). There is also no consensus as to what sustainability means or to how it should be measured. To be sure, many RIAs address sustainability issues, but the methodologies used differ widely. RIAs generally try to integrate sustainability checks in order to provide a basis for decision-making, develop an exhaustive set of impact indicators, and analyze both short- and long-term impacts. However, most assessments lack at least one of these criteria in practice.
The government’s Instructions for Official Studies and Reports require that a sensitivity analysis must be made if any appreciable uncertainty exists, and that alternative instruments should be assessed, including instruments not of a regulatory nature (e.g., economic instruments). In practice, the extent to which alternative options are given careful consideration and submitted to a systematic cost-benefit analysis varies from case to case. Quantification of the costs and benefits of different alternatives is relatively rare.
Environmental sustainability is one of several mainstreamed goals in the policy process. In theory at least, all government bills, procurements and directives to Royal Commissions are supposed to be assessed to determine their impact on environmental sustainability. As for other types of sustainability criteria, there is little evidence available about the degree to which they are considered in the RIA process.
The government conducts effective sustainability checks within the framework of RIA. Given the decentralized political and administrative system of Switzerland, however, they are only used in few departments.

The Federal Office for Spatial Development uses the Sustainability Impact Assessment (Nachhaltigkeitsbeurteilung NHB) and the Federal Office for the Environment uses the Economic Impact Assessment (Volkswirtschaftliche Beurteilung VOBU). There is no social impact assessment at the federal level.
Czech Rep.
Sustainability checks are an integral part of every RIA assessment but are not very comprehensive. The checklist requires a response to the question of whether there are effects on social, economic and environmental issues and for an indication of what those effects are. The 2016 amendments to the RIA guidelines have specified how to assess or quantify these effects. Criteria are continuously refined.
The dimension of sustainability is included in the methodological guidelines for RIA. The guidelines demand an assessment of the reviewed policy’s impact over the short, medium and long term. However, concern with sustainability is given a marginal role in the impact-assessment process overall. The existing set of indicators is not explicitly linked to the sustainability check.

Estonia has a national long-term (30-year) sustainability strategy, “Sustainable Estonia 21,” which was adopted by the national parliament in 2005. However, the latest government decree and the methodological guidelines do not make any reference to this national strategy. In November 2016, a comprehensive analysis of the strategy commissioned by the Government Office proposed updates to the sustainable development strategy together with a range of indicators for assessing objectives of the strategy.
Summary of the Analysis of the Estonian Sustainable Development Strategy “Sustainable Estonia 21”. https://riigikantselei.ee/sites/default/files/content-editors/Failid/SA_eesti/summary_of_se21_analysis_eng.pdf (accessed 17 December 2017).
In 2003, the government adopted the National Sustainable Development Strategy. The Ministry of Environment is responsible for coordinating projects related to this document. Lithuanian policymakers are supposed to conduct sustainability checks within the existing framework for regulatory impact assessment. The 2012 impact-assessment guidelines provide for the assessment of economic, social and environmental impacts, among other factors. Both short-term and long-term impacts should be assessed under the new guidelines. However, the guidelines do not provide an exhaustive set of impact indicators addressing these impact dimensions. Producing high-quality environmental reviews remains a challenge under the new system, which focuses on impacts within the business environment and remains a largely formal exercise. The ex ante evaluation of the 2014 – 2020 operational program supported by EU structural funds included strategic environmental assessment that considered the likely effects of EU investments on the environment (in line with EU and national legislation).
So far, RIAs have often highlighted international benchmarking to reinforce their investigations. As one example, in a recent development, the Mexican government signaled its intention to become a world leader in sustainable tourism. Here, sustainability relates to energy efficiency, improved environmental performance and the protection of cultural heritage. The government partnered with the private firm EC3 Global to support the adoption of their trademark EarthCheck science and solutions for tourism operators and companies committed to sustainable practices and to align their performance with global benchmarks, endorsed by the World Tourism Organization. EarthCheck is an internationally recognized environmental management and certification program with more than 1,300 members in 70 countries. The program improves the operational performance of member organizations and reduces costs. However, like in many other OECD countries, RIAs in Mexico have up to now not fully embraced a multidimensional sustainability perspective as is foreseen by the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. This is a particular challenge against the backdrop of the United Nation’s Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals), which were supported by Mexico and require a multidimensional perspective – including social, economic and ecological dimensions – in public policymaking.
South Korea
The assessment of policy-implementation sustainability in South Korea is regulated by the 2007 Sustainable Development Act and overseen by the Presidential Commission on Sustainable Development. This body’s task is to implement, promote, share, educate, network, monitor and make policy proposals on sustainable development. The three main tasks under the act include the establishment of fundamental national-level sustainability strategies every 20 years, the establishment of specific action plans every five years, and the assessment of implementation every two years. The act addresses environmental quality, vulnerability to environmental degradation, environmental degradation level, the social and institutional capacities to respond, and responsibility sharing with the international community. Critics argued that under the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations, a focus on economic growth and deregulation diminished the attention paid to issues of sustainability. For example, past governments repeatedly issued waivers on regulations governing economic development within green-belt areas in order to boost the real-estate market, undermining principles of environmental sustainability. President Moon has by contrast promised to highlight environmental sustainability, but the actual effects on RIA remain to be seen. His campaign commitment to withdraw from nuclear-powered electricity generation represents one attempt to promote environmental sustainability in South Korea. The Moon government’s welfare policies have also prompted heated debates over social sustainability and fiscal sustainability.
Ministry of Government Legislation, http://www.moleg.go.kr/english/korL awEng?pstSeq=57720
Presidential Commission on Sustainable Development (PCSD), http://ncsd.go.kr:2020/index.asp
There is no standard, separate check required for “sustainability” as such. Assessments are expected to consider the important costs and benefits relevant to the particular project or policy. Environmental considerations have figured very prominently in many cases. However, the Trump administration has aggressively dismissed most environmental considerations.
Sustainability checks lack two of the three criteria.
Most of the regulatory impact assessments in Bulgaria are merely formal, with the exception of budgetary and environmental issues. The creation of an independent fiscal council in 2015 represents a major step forward in improving the fiscal sustainability check on proposed regulations and policies, while the positions taken by the council since its establishment indicate that sustainability of public finances is among its primary concerns. Environmental checks focus mostly on issues of pollution and wilderness protection, and less on greenhouse gas emissions. Other economic and social impacts are generally addressed superficially, and the input of non-government actors in the public-consultation process is generally ignored. The newly established rules for impact assessments require a posterior appraisal of effects of different policies within five years of their introduction.
RIAs do not necessarily analyze a regulation’s impact on sustainability in the broad sense. Short-, medium- and long-term analysis tends to focus exclusively on economic rather than ecological or social issues.
OECD (2016), Regulatory Policy in Chile: Government Capacity to Ensure High-Quality Regulation, OECD
Reviews of Regulatory Reform, OECD Publishing, Paris.
The new regulations on cabinet procedures, enacted in March 2016, do not include anything about sustainability checks as parts of the impact assessment. However, financial impact is mentioned.
Reglur um starfshætti ríkisstjórnar. Nr. 292/2016 18. mars 2016.
Sustainability checks within the framework of RIA are still underdeveloped but are gradually improving. The reports of the Prime Minister’s Office to the parliament show that they are not yet systematically integrated within RIA and they are not exhaustive from the point of view of the indicators included (economic indicators play a greater role than social and environmental ones). With a decision taken in 2017, the PMO together with the Ministry of Environment will exercise tighter control over the adoption of sustainability criteria in regulation.
Croatia adopted a sustainability strategy in 2009. However, neither this strategy nor the RIA Strategy or subsequent RIA action plans provide for comprehensive sustainability checks. RIAs are supposed to consider a broad range of impacts, including fiscal, economic, social and environmental, but the actual quality of assessments is low. There is no systematic differentiation between the short, medium and long term. RIA implementation has featured a rather selective bias that depends on regulators’ attitudes regarding an open policymaking process. Some ministries opened the entire RIA process up to the public, requesting feedback on draft bills from stakeholders. Unfortunately, there are still ministries and agencies that do not sufficiently value public feedback, which undermines the purpose of RIAs. A poor communication strategy regarding RIA application has also generated further problems. The Croatian government promotes RIA as a tool relatively rarely, thereby de facto neglecting the efforts of ministries and agencies that implement RIA tools.
The assessment questionnaires inquire on positive and negative impacts of a policy proposal across various aspects of the economy, society, and environment as well as on the processes and work of the government. It also examines the methods and processes followed, including interactions with other ministries’ services and consultations with the public or other stakeholders.

There are three questionnaires: for new legislation or amendments, for legislation transposing EU directives into national law and for legislation ratifying international treaties.

Questions on sustainability are exclusively economic, focused on the impact on the budget and macroeconomic effects.
Some of the suggested sustainability checks are included in the RIA Guidelines published in 2009 (a 97-page document), but there is no explicit mention of “sustainability” in that document and it does not seem that such checks are integrated into the RIA process. There is explicit provision for the inclusion of poverty impact assessments.
While regulatory impact assessments are a compulsory regulatory tool in Malta, the government has no formally adopted sustainability strategy. Sustainability checks that do exist are often found only in areas involving planning and the environment. The effectiveness of key regulations and policy initiatives are assessed mainly through Malta’s National Reform Program, the annual report that Malta (like all other EU member states) submits to the European Commission. This report is like a progress check, where Malta provides detailed updates relating to its Europe 2020 targets as a result of its policies. These reports include quantitative impact indicators that can illustrate the effectiveness (or failures) of regulatory projects that touch on social, environmental and economic issues. Overall, progress has continued, manifested, for example, in the decision to increase subsidization of public transport schemes and improve the efficiency of electricity generation. However, a clear way forward has been lagging in the provision and sustainable use of water resources.
http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/maki ng-it-happen/index_en.htm
RIA analyses were only timidly introduced in Spain in 2009, and the process as implemented up to this point has not included systematic sustainability checks using an exhaustive set of indicators considering the short- to long-term effects of regulatory change. However, a piece of new legislation on the reform of the Spanish general administrative procedure (passed in October 2015) included new sustainability-related improvements that have not been yet developed. Under the terms of this new law (Law 39/2015), the executive – in principle through the Government Office (Ministerio de la Presidencia) – will centralize the task of checking whether new bills prepared by the rest of ministries and agencies fulfilled various criteria from a procedural point of view (quality of the proposed regulation, congruence with other laws, participation of stakeholders, compliance with EU law). Articles 129 and 130 of the new law mandate a systematic process ensuring the substantive congruence of all policy proposals being prepared. This would basically ensure that sufficient planning and effective RIA had been carried out by the sectoral ministry proposing the new legislation, and that an evaluation procedure was included. Despite this recently introduced improvement, Spain lacks a formal sustainability strategy other than the National Reform Plan and the Stability Program associated with European economic-governance obligations. The Royal Decree 931/2017, issued 27 October 2017, may improve regulatory impact analyses concentrating on the economic, social and environmental consequences of new legislation.
Real Decreto 931/2017, de 27 de octubre, por el que se regula la Memoria del Análisis de Impacto Normativo.

Ley 39/2015, de 1 de octubre, del Procedimiento Administrativo Común de las Administraciones Públicas.
Www.boe.es/diario_boe/tx t.php?id=BOE-A-2015-10565
There is no real systematic sustainability strategy except in those cases where EU regulations require such an examination. In most instances, political jockeying tends to prevail over policy analysis. In many instances, decisions are mainly based on political arguments regardless of social, financial or environmental costs. The sustainability argument is mainly used by opponents of a policy or envisaged equipment (the Nantes airport is an acute example of this). It has to be seen if the intentions of Macron’s administration to improve the situation will materialize.
According to the 2001 Government Policy Evaluation Act, policy effects have to be evaluated in terms of the three criteria of necessity, efficiency and effectiveness. These terms are somewhat flexible and do not necessarily encompass sustainability concerns. Indeed, actual evaluations apply the three guiding principles only in a somewhat loose way, with few rigorous quantitative assessments. Reviews cover both pre-project as well as post-project evaluations.
MIC (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, Japan), Website on evaluation results, http://www.soumu.go.jp/menu_seisakuhyouka/kekka.html (accessed in October 2015)
A systematic sustainability assessment process does not exist in Luxembourg. The government plans to introduce effective sustainability checks and a systematic monitoring of relevant administrative and legislative acts. In general, the impact of policies and policy side effects at all levels (economic, social and environmental), need to be evaluated with reference to principles of sustainable development and sustainable decision-making. It is essential to agree on Regulatory impact assessment (RIA) procedures to “benefit from improved coherence and coordination between ministries, civil society and stakeholders.” Sustainability checks at all levels should be made transparent by establishing harmonized legislation with binding RIA standards.
Ein nachhaltiges Luxemburg für mehr Lebensqualität. Le gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 2010. www.environnement.public.lu/developpement_durable/dossiers/pndd_2010/PNDD.pdf. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Mémorial A n° 102 de 2004.” Journal officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 2 July 2004, legilux.public.lu/eli/etat/leg/memorial/2004/102#page=2#page=2. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

Rapport d’activité 2016. Ministère du Développement durable et des Infrastructures, 2015. www.gouvernement.lu/6806637/2016-rapport-activite-mddi-environnement.pdf. Accessed 30 Dec. 2017.
Sustainability checks are not integrated systematically into impact assessments. They may take place in some assessment processes but not in others, in a rather ad hoc fashion that depends on who is carrying out the impact assessment. The same is true with regard to the use of sustainability-focused indicators, as well as the temporal dimension of the analyses.
As a result of EU directives, the RIA methodology manual requires that sustainability concerns be incorporated in assessment reports. In practice, most such reports are primarily legalistic and pay limited attention to issues of sustainability.
The new RIA methodology (in place since 2010) lacks effective sustainability checks. The methodology draws a distinction between five different dimensions (public finance, the social environment and labor markets, the business environment, the natural environment, and the information society); however, it does not differentiate between short-, medium- and long-term impacts. The process is unsystematic even in theory, and the reality is even weaker.
Slovenia’s RIA guidelines provide for relatively far-reaching sustainability checks. However, the specification of assessment criteria and the set of indicators to be used suffer from gaps, and the actual quality of RIA is very uneven. In some cases, there are only vague assessments; in others, comprehensive analytical work is done. During the period under review, the quality of assessments has somewhat improved.
The government has conducted several sustainability checks within its regulatory impact assessment (RIA) framework, for instance for the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, the Habitat Directive and the Discharge Directive.

However, these examples refer to internationally sponsored projects and are not an indication of a general administrative practice. Politicians and experts widely use the term “sustainability” in policy slogans, but there is no formally adopted sustainability strategy in Turkey.

During the review period, the Coordination Board of Internal Audit published Performance Audit Guidelines for Public Sector Internal Auditors, which includes sustainability checks as a component in performance auditing. However, there is no information about RIA sustainability checks.
Başbakanlık, Bürokrasinin Azaltılması ve Kamu Hizmet Sunum Esaslarının Geliştirilmesi, DÜZENLEYİCİ ETKİ ANALİZİ RAPORU, Temmuz 2009, www.riaturkey.org/doc/Burokrasinin_ azaltilmasi.doc (accessed July 26, 2010)
Yavuz Gazibey, Ahmet Keser, Yunus Gökmen, Türkiye’de İllerin Sürdürülebilirlik Boyutları Açısından Değerlendirilmesi, Ankara Üniversitesi SBF Dergisi, 2014, 69(3): 511-544. (accessed 27 October 2015)
İç Denetim Koordinasyon Kurulu, Kamu iç Denetçileri İçin Performans Denetimi Rehberi, 2016, http://www.idkk.gov.tr/SiteDokumanlari/Mevzuat/Ucuncul%20Duzey%20Mevzuat/PerformansDenetimiRehberi.pdf (accessed 1 November 2017)
Sustainability checks do not exist or lack all three criteria.
The Hungarian parliament passed a National Sustainability Strategy in March 2013 and afterwards the environmental committee was transformed into the Committee of Sustainable Development (consisting of parliamentarians) and supported by the National Sustainability Council (consisting of experts across all policy fields). This strategy is a long document that surveys relevant international documents and provides some Hungarian applications. However, the Sustainability Strategy and RIA processes have not yet been coordinated because sustainability checks are not an integral part of RIA.
The RIA process in Israel is designed to ensure sustainable policymaking. According to the official guide, assessments are to be based on multiple indicators, such as economic, social and environmental data. However, it is still too early to determine whether this is regularly done in practice.
Governmental RIA Guide, April 2015, PMO website: http://regulation.gov.il/uploads/reports/7/RIAGUIDE_opt.pdf
Annotations have no specific sustainability checks. For example, the issue of sustainability is not integrated into the annotations, impact indicators are not consistently used and there is no requirement to perform short-, medium- or long-term analyses. Some annotations do provide such information, but this is discretionary. New regulations on annotations, introduced in 2014, include a regulatory impact assessment that requires a calculation of the administrative burden, such as the cost to business.

Latvia has not adopted a specific sustainability strategy. However, sustainability is integrated into the Latvia 2030 strategy. As draft policies are assessed for compatibility with this strategy, sustainability issues may be taken into consideration. The Cross-Sectoral Coordination Centre (PKC) provides input to the drafting of policies, highlighting sustainability issues. The PKC also conducts an annual assessment of Latvia’s strategic goals, which includes sustainability assessments.
Sustainable Development Strategy of Latvia until 2030, Available at: http://www.latvija2030.lv/upload/la tvija2030_en.pdf, Last assessed: 21.05.2015
Article 5 of Poland’s constitution enshrines the principle of sustainable development, according to which the state ensures the protection of the environment, guided by the principle of sustainable development. Sustainability checks are not an integral part of regulatory impact assessments, and the PiS government has been less concerned with issues of sustainability than its predecessors. Rather, the PiS government entered into several quarrels with the European Commission and the European Court of Justice due to infringement procedures because the government did not practice RIA in the case of natural gas drilling or ignored sustainability and environmental protection principles in the case of logging in the Białowieża primeval forest.
Sustainability checks are not explicitly an integrated component of RIAs in Australia. There is no formally adopted sustainability strategy in Australia.
There is no effective regulatory impact assessment process in Belgium.
Sustainability checks do not exist; this has been the case under the preceding and the incumbent government.
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