Recent research and experience in the field of Impact Assessment has highlighted the importance of developing studies able to integrate environmental, social and economic issues in decision-making, in order to support positive contributions to sustainability in all its dimensions. To designate this approach, the term Sustainability Assessment has been used, leading to the emergency of a new field of studies in Impact Assessment. In this research, we propose an analysis of the practice of impact assessment in the state of São Paulo based on sustainability assessment theory, in order to find contributions, opportunities, barriers, and risks of adopting this approach as a new conceptual and normative framework. As a case study, the analysis will focus on recent Environmental Impact Assessment of the sugarcane industry, being two in details, based on the hypothesis that the environmental licensing procedures in the sugarcane industry tend to have acceptable quality compared to international standards of Impact Assessment, as a result of the attention given by the government and industry to the image of ethanol as a product with low environmental impact. As results, it is expected (i) to obtain a diagnosis of the quality and effectiveness of Brazilian Environmental Impact Assessment in the referred industry, by using international criteria of best practice in Impact Assessment and sustainability assessment; (ii) to obtain an effectiveness study of the impact assessment of two mills in operation phase; and (iii) propose guidelines for improving the quality of EIAs of sugarcane industry. As an additional result, we expect to contribute to the international debate about the state of the art of sustainability assessment as well as to elucidate its potential role in the national context.
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