The mutualism of strategic environmental assessment and sustainable development goals

Ainhoa González Del Campo (Lead / Corresponding author), Paola Gazzola, Vincent Onyango

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
207 Downloads (Pure)


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set a universal agenda intended to stimulate social, economic and environmental action. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has the potential to assist in the implementation of actions supporting the SDGs by providing a systematic framework to incorporate them into policies, plans and programmes; and the SDGs in turn, could substantiate SEA's contribution to sustainable development. Therefore, the partnering of both policy instruments fosters a mutualistic relationship, benefiting both. In this paper, we review current engagement of SEA with the SDGs both in the academic literature and in practice. The findings reveal a recognisable subtle shift towards the adoption of a new paradigm in plan-making, particularly supported by governments' growingly proactive embracement of SDGs, albeit through different approaches, initiatives and commitments. This sets a robust foundation for spatial planning and, by extension, a reference framework for SEA. Nevertheless, operationalising the SDGs is difficult. The extent to which SDG objectives and targets are embedded in SEA and, indeed, integrated into plans/programmes seems to be hampered by the broad scope of both sustainability and SEA, and a general lack of awareness and know-how. This suggest a need to clarify SEA's mandate for engaging with the SDGs, as well as to provide training for a more proactive integration of the objectives and targets. Through initiatives such as these, there are opportunities to optimise mutual gains for both policy instruments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106383
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Early online date13 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Sustainable development
  • impact assessment
  • mutual benefits
  • SDFs
  • SEA
  • spatial planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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