Canadian Council of Ministers
of the Environment

Le Conseil canadien des ministres
de l'environnement



CCME has identified consensus decision-making as one of its fundamental operating principles. It is a process that attempts to recognize and account for the differing, legitimate interests of its 14 member governments. It maximizes opportunities to resolve differences and to reach agreement on workable solutions. A working description of the consensus approach follows:


"Having heard and understood all views expressed, a solution has been proposed, and while I may not hold that this proposal is optimal, I believe it will work and I will support it."

Although all participants may not agree with each specific aspect of the solution, consensus is reached if all participants are willing to live with the total package.

  • The process of voting does not lead to consensus
  • Bargaining does not produce consensus
  • Majority rule is not consensus
  • Minority or one-person rule is not consensus

Four Steps To Consensus

  • Look beyond people's positions to understand their interests
  • Invent options for mutual gain: what is fair vs. what is best for each, or for all
  • Use objective criteria to assess options
  • Build sound solutions

A Back-up Process to Achieve Consensus, When Other Processes Have Failed

  • Identify the problem causing the blockage
  • Identify areas of agreement and those of disagreement
  • Self-evaluation will determine if process so far is leading toward original goals
  • Look for exaggeration, hyperbole, distortion and separate facts from fiction
  • Switch roles: have participants argue from another person's standpoint
  • Modify the best solution so far
  • Develop two lists: one "agreed upon", the other "not agreed upon"

Consensus Building: A Table Guide and Toolkit