The paper contributes to the discussion on the use of methods and quantifi cation in regulatory impact assessment. We investigate whether there are differences between the three dimensions of sustainable development in terms of the methodical efforts to assess potential impacts. Based on a survey in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, we provide some evidence regarding these questions. We fi nd that regulatory impact assessment is still biased towards assessing intended and mainly economic costs. There is a gap between the recommended use of methods in offi cial guidance documents and the practice in member states. The reason for this gap can be seen in the existence of operational problems in practice such as lack of data or lack of tools. However, we fi nd that the degree of sophistication of conducted IAs can be improved if responsible desk offi cers receive training or make use of guidance documents and receive support from co-ordination units. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.