This paper reviews some of the attempts that have been made in the EU to include sustainability concerns in ex ante policy assessment processes and explores why these are generally deemed to be ineffective. It argues that the dominant policy frames are not oriented towards sustainable development. Traditional policy assessment procedures, which are designed and used to screen policy proposals, are unable to install sustainability considerations into proposals retroactively. A 'gap' in the toolbox of assessment methods, therefore, exists for a form of sustainability assessment able to give a strategic sustainability orientation to policy-making. Within the MATISSE project, this form of assessment is termed 'Integrated Sustainability Assessment' (ISA). This paper describes ISA and discusses where and when in the policy process it could be used most effectively.
Keywords: integrated sustainability assessment, ISA, ex ante policy assessment, sustainability impact assessment, SIA, gap analysis, sustainability transitions, agent-based modelling, reframing, issue domain, policy regimes, MATISSE project, sustainable development, European Union, policy making