Background: The need to measure the effectiveness of environmental impact assessment (EIA) systems has been fuelled by the debate over the relevance of EIA systems as environmental management tools. Researchers have developed different models for evaluating the effectiveness of EIA systems. However, the models face the challenges related to objectivity and the quantification of environmental impacts which have restricted the measurement of the effectiveness to procedural evaluation. Objectives: The purpose of this article is to propose and discuss an alternative conceptual and practical model to evaluating the effectiveness of EIA systems. Method: This article reviewed the objectives of EIA systems as enshrined in the Rio Declaration and the Local Agenda 21 to derive the theoretical framework. The concepts of compliance, participation and capacity were identified as important elements of a framework for evaluating both procedural and substantive EIA system effectiveness. Results: Through literature review, the article identified and critiqued models for evaluating EIA systems in terms of objectivity and substantiveness. The method, rights and resources (MRR) model focussed on substantive and procedural effectiveness, objectivity of EIA system effectiveness evaluation and provided a theoretical framework. The MRR model was conceptualised as an indicator-based model. Conclusion: The MRR model introduces a divergence from previous models in that objective evaluation of the effectiveness of EIA systems is built into the EIA system rather than applied externally on the EIA system.