Multi-criteria analysis in environmental decision-making

Decision-making in environmental projects needs to consider the connections between social, political, environmental and economic impacts. Various stakeholder views also affect the outcomes of decision-making. Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) as a formal methodology of decision-making utilizes existing technical information and stakeholder values to support decisions in many fields and can be especially valuable in environmental decision-making.

Environmental decisions are often complex and require considerations of multi-disciplinary knowledge such as physical social sciences, politics and ethics. However, it contains huge uncertain information due to risks (e.g.,climate change, nanotechnology, etc.), different values of stakeholders and different management alternatives. In light of this, a systematic and understandable framework is necessary for decision makers to organize technical information. MCDA provides a systematic methodology to balance these uncertain elements. It combines cost information and stakeholder views to rank the priority of options. It also discovers and quantifies decision maker and stakeholder considerations about various non-monetary factors in order to compare alternative courses of actions.

During the last two decades, MCDA applications in the environmental field have increased significantly. It have been applied to the remediation of contaminated sites, the optimization of water and coastal resources, and the management of other resources. Numerous studies indicate that MCDA methods provide a distinct improvement in the decision process and public acceptance of the suggested remedial or abatement policy.


Huang, I.B., Keisler, J. and Linkov, I., 2011. Multi-criteria decision analysis in environmental sciences: ten years of applications and trends. Science of the total environment, 409(19), pp.3578-3594.

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