There are many definitions of strategic environmental assessment (SEA). Sadler and Verheem (1996) call it:
"a systematic process for evaluating the environmental consequences of proposed policy, plan or programme initiatives in order to ensure they are fully included and appropriately addressed at the earliest appropriate stage of decision making on par with economic and social considerations."
Therivel et al. (1992) define it as:
"the formalised, systematic and comprehensive process of evaluating the environmental effects of a policy, plan or programme and its alternatives, including the preparation of a written report on the findings of that evaluation, and using the findings in publicly accountable decision-making."
Perhaps the simplest definition of SEA is that it is the environmental impact assessment process applied to policies, plans and programmes, keeping in mind that the process of evaluating environmental impacts at a strategic level is not necessarily the same as evaluating them at a project level.Several other terms are also used to refer to environmental assessment at the strategic level, including:
* policy environmental assessment;
* policy impact assessment;
* sectoral environmental assessment; and
* programmatic environmental impact statement.
These are all subcomponents of SEA: SEA applied to certain types of strategic actions.The term SEA report refers to a report that describes the methods and findings of the SEA process. Preparation of an SEA report is part of most SEA processes.