The number of sustainable development evaluation methods has proliferated during the last few years. However, they are often time consuming and expensive to conduct, making reiteration, a crucial part of assessing progress, an unappealing and difficult task. Making the results comprehensible and meaningful to the public is also challenging but essential if evaluations are to be translated into policy and action. Moreover, although such evaluations are important in assessing progress towards sustainable development, it may be hard to make them responsive to change, which is synonymous with the concept of development. Change includes both the conditions being assessed and the techniques that are used.

This paper explores the crucial elements for making sustainable development evaluations work using the Bellagio principles as a framework to identify tools that can be used to implement them. These principles are interrelated and taken together can help ensure the effectiveness of sustainable development evaluations. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.