IMPERIA - Improving environmental assessment by adopting good practices and tools of multi-criteria decision analysis

LIFE11 ENV/FI/000905

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Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) is a methodology for fusing available technical information and stakeholder values to support decision-making in many fields. MCDA has many characteristics, such as the integration of diverse information and the handling of conflicting objectives, which make it a useful tool for supporting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) processes. EIA is applied to projects, while SEA applies to policies, plans and programmes. However, practices for evaluating the impact of alternative approaches to environmental planning are underdeveloped, and public participation produces information that is often not used efficiently. Therefore, the integration of MCDA into EIA/SEA, coupled with more efficient interactions between stakeholders, could have a crucial impact on the quality and effectiveness of EIA and SEA procedures.


The overall objective of the IMPERIA project was to bring good practices and methods from Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA), which have been developed and applied extensively by the project partners in other areas, into the fields of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The project also aimed to increase collaboration and information exchange between EIA/SEA, MCDA and participatory planning professionals (authorities, planners, consultants and researchers) all over Europe. Specific objectives were to develop systematic, transparent and participatory practices and procedures by integrating principles and practices of MCDA into the EIA and SEA processes; to demonstrate the ways in which MCDA can be used in EIA and SEA processes to improve the comprehensive evaluation of alternatives and more explicit evaluation of impact significance; to develop new MCDA-based tools for integrated EIA and an MCDA-based questionnaire tool to gather public opinions online in a structured and efficient way; and to compile guidelines for the integrated and interactive use of MCDA principles and tools in EIA/SEA processes.


The IMPERIA project developed and applied methodology and tools for integrating Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) into the fields of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in Finland. The project also improved collaboration and information exchange regarding MCDA and EIA/SEA among planning professionals (authorities, planners, consultants and researchers). MCDA supports interactive environmental planning and the systematic comparison of alternatives, in terms of the objectives important for different stakeholders. IMPERIA demonstrated its tools and approaches for MCDA via three main pilot projects, a windfarm EIA (the Piipari project), an EIA for wastewater management in Vihti Municipali and a SEA project on flood risk management in Lapuanjoki, and through five mini-pilot projects.

Project practices developed for improving public participation included guidelines for carrying out stakeholder analysis and for establishing and working with stakeholder groups, questionnaire templates, and application guidelines for a map-based internet questionnaire. The project developed methods for sketching and structuring planning situations, such as summaries of methods applicable in complex and ill-structured situations, and examples of application of the methods (e.g. influence diagrams, objectives hierarchies, SWOT analysis, and strategy generation table).

The project developed a new EIA-specific tool for MCDA modelling, called the ARVI tool (free-of-charge and downloadable on https://www.jyu.fi/bioenv/en/divisions/natural-resources-and-environment/ymp/research/imperia-project/arvi-tool). The ARVI approach to impact-significance assessment involved developing a structured approach, the ARVI software tool itself, and guidelines and support for its implementation. This important project innovation was demonstrated during the Piipari pilot project. The demand for this kind of supporting tool, which improves the cost-efficiency of EIA, is potentially high. IMPERIA therefore brought previous beneficiary experiences of using MCDA approaches, tools and practices to projects involving EIA and SEA for the first time. The outcomes of the pilot projects suggest that these structured approaches and tools could have a great potential in EIA/SEA projects throughout Europe. However, the potential of MCDA depends on the project, with the project team concluding that benefits will be greatest in large and controversial projects which have several alternative options. In this respect, it was important that the project demonstrated its tools and practices in various types of real-life EIA projects.

The project disseminated its findings with a particular focus on reaching people working in the EIA and SEA fields, such as authorities, consultants, researchers and project owners, ensuring awareness among these potential end-users is high in Finland. Presentations at major EIA/SEA meetings and seminars has also spread awareness outside Finland. In the long term, it is expected that the IMPERIA practices will become part of standard EIA processes, and possibly also SEA processes.

By the end of the project, the ARVI tool had already been taken into use by the project partner consultant companies Ramboll Finland and SITO, and other Finnish consultant companies are likely to follow. The approach has also gained interest in Estonia, Sweden and Denmark, suggesting that in the longer term the ARVI approach and tool may be more widely applied outside Finland (with production of English-language materials playing an important role in this).

The IMPERIA project demonstrated a participatory and collaborative approach with stakeholder involvement and public participation possibilities, both in the tools developed and the report on good practices in EIA/SEA, which can lead to long-term socio-economic benefits. By integrating MCDA into EIA/SEA, the project has contributed to an important area of environmental planning that was not previously addressed.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's Layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Risk management - Risk assessment and monitoring


environmental assessment

Target EU Legislation

  • Environmental management & assessment
  • Directive 2001/42 - Assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment ...
  • Directive 2011/92 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Finnish Environment Institute
Type of organisation National authority
Description The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) based in Helsinki, is the only governmental research and development institute located within the administration of the Finnish ministry of environment. SYKE is responsible for carrying out environmental research, monitoring and assessment, through seven research and development programmes.
Partners Municipality of Vihti, Finland Water Protection Association of the River Vantaa and Helsinki Region, Finland Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, Finland


Project reference LIFE11 ENV/FI/000905
Duration 01-AUG-2012 to 31-DEC -2015
Total budget 1,292,043.00 €
EU contribution 639,032.00 €
Project location Uusimaa(Finland Suomi)


Read more:

Poster "Results from LIFE+ project IMPERIA (1.8.2012-31.1 ...
Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Slides Presentation "Challenges of transparency and clarity of Environ ...


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version