“Decision making is the study of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values and preferences of the decision maker. Making a decision implies that there are alternative choices to be considered, and in such a case we want not only to identify as many of these alternatives as possible but to choose the one that best fits with our goals, objectives, desires, values, and so on.”(Harris (1980)) According to Baker et al. (2001), decision making should start with the identification of the decision maker(s) and stakeholder(s) in the decision, reducing the possible disagreement about problem definition, requirements, goals and criteria. Then, a general decision making process can be divided into the following steps:
The concepts of decision-making and environmental planning are based upon conflict analyses that are characterized by socio-political, economic and environmental value judgments. Several alternatives have to be considered and evaluated in terms of different criteria and many, resulting into a vast body of data that are often not accurate or uncertain. To complicate the process further, there are typically a lot of decision-makers with conflicting preferences. Various interest’s different points of view groups should also be considered in the process. Taking in mind the above information, it can be concluded that procedure of making a simple and really good decision does not exist in environmental planning, and the planning process can be characterized as a search for acceptable compromise solutions. This process’ success depends on selecting the most suitable decision-making methodology.
In a lot of cases and especially in cases where economic criteria should be evaluated with social, technical and environmental criteria in the same, however, model, cost benefit analysis can be successfully applied. The use of cost benefit analysis in economic criteria’s evaluation is critical in analyzing the way that every alternative action adds to the society’s welfare. cost benefit analysis’ results can then be included in multi-criteria analysis, so as to produce a model incorporating all the relevant criteria in a holistic way. Thus, we believe that combined cost benefit analysis ‘use and multi-criteria analysis is suitable for resolving sustainability problems whose aim is economic, environmental, and social values’ reconciliation.