Suggested citation: Ferretti, J. (2013). Checklists. LIAISE Toolbox. Retrieved date, from

Short Version

Checklists are a list of questions or criteria, which represent the impact areas of an impact assessment or which divide them into their main fields of application. By providing a checklist it is ensured that all relevant impact areas are taken account of by the IA analyst.

Extended Version

Definition & Objectives

Checklists are the simplest method for systematizing scoping of the likely effects of a proposed policy. They help point out areas that require a more detailed assessment. In some cases checklists also represent the impact analyses itself.

To be most effective, checklists should be developed for a specific context or issue area so they can point to common impacts and risks (see for instance the EC's impact areas). This way, checklists can help to organize the assessment and identify the most important issues. They can also be used for a comparison of policy options. Questions can often be answered with yes or no, or they may require only an ordinal assessment of impacts. Hence, checklists can be quick and easy to use, if all necessary data have already been collected, these data are readily available, and the person using the checklist is already familiar with the proposed measure. If data is missing, checklists can identify which evidence or analysis is still required and which expertise is still needed to complete the analysis.

Process & Method

Simple checklists merely list aspects to be considered in the analysis. They function as a guide for conducting the analysis by pointing out issues that are likely be affected, including those that may be less obvious but may still be relevant. They do not provide any other additional support for the analysis.

Descriptive checklists add to simple checklists as they do not only list the aspects to be considered but provide additional background information on each aspect. For example, they may identify the most important indicators to measure each component.

Questionnaire checklists are composed of a series of questions that highlight potentially relevant issues. Usually, the checklists first identifies a general issue area (e.g. climate change) and then asks more detailed questions about the concrete impacts of a measure in this issue area (e.g. expected raise of CO2 emissions) and their likely importance.

Weighting checklists include simple devices for assessing importance or significance of suspected aspects. This might be through the use of letter or numeric scales, assigned based on criteria supplied in the checklist, to indicate the importance of an impact. Another approach is to use threshold values, based on statutory criteria (e.g. for water quality standards) or on derived measures (e.g. visitor carrying-capacity for a given locality). The suspected impact can be estimated in broad terms and given a value to represent its significance. This represents a starting point for comparing and ranking alternative policy options (Anderson 2000).

Combination with other methods

Checklists are rather stand-alone methods. Depending on the type of checklist though, relevant stakeholders can be involved for weighing or rating.

Types of data needed

Questions are answered with yes or no or an ordinal assessment of impacts. A checklist can be extended by requiring the IA analyst to justify the assessment or by introducing open questions.

Strengths & weaknesses

  • Checklist belong to the group of impact assessment methods which require comparatively low effort once they have been developed.
  • Since assessment aspects are specified in advance, the assessment procedure is standardized and a minimum of quality can be secured.
  • Checklists rather support a routine shaped assessment of potential policy effects.

Practice examples and Software

Example simple/ descriptive checklist

In its guidelines the EU Commission (2009) provides a specially developed innovation checklist (see Annexes 1-13) for assessing the impacts of policy options on innovation effects in which an estimation in terms of – until +++ of short, medium- and long-term as well as indirect impacts should be given.

Example questionnaire checklist

European Commission's list of key questions in the IA Guidelines (2009) shall provide a basis on which to screen options against possible economic, social and environmental impacts.

The OECD’s Checklist for Negotiators of Environmental Provisions in Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) (2008) has been developed by its Joint Working Party on Trade and Environment to provide negotiators of RTAs with guidance on how to incorporate environmental provisions in an RTA.

Sustainability Check Luxembourg: In 2011 the Environmental Policy Research Centre developed a tool to support Luxemburg’s planned ‚sustainability check‘. The Excel-based tool reflects the 18 quality objectives set out in the national sustainability strategy. Policy options’ potential impacts on the objectives can be described and assessed (on a scale from very positive to very negative, and unknown). The options are compared against each other in a web diagram.

Sustainability Check Brandenburg: A similar excel-based tool was designed in 2011 for an exemplary sustainability check of plans and programmes in the Federal State Brandenburg. The tool has been tested on the Report about the Energy Strategy 2030.

Sustainability Check Flemish Government: The Flemish Government uses a checklist (Rapporteringstabel VSDO) to monitor the actions developed under the Flemish Sustainable Development Strategy. The Quick Scan tool is applied to assess the sustainability of rules and regulations.

Example weighting checklist

The Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development (2009) provides an Excel tool to support scoping activities as well as a rough check in the context of the Swiss Sustainability IA procedure (see Excel Tool SA).


Anderson, K. (2000): Environmental Impact Assessment. Chalmers University of Technology,