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Influencing Sustainable Development Policy and Strategy in South Africa

Environmental issues and others that influence the sustainability of development and progress in emerging markets are often perceived as peripheral. As is the case in South Africa, a lack of awareness and understanding about the interdependence of society, the economy and the environment is striking. Environmental and social practitioners, therefore, often question whether their work is of value and has real impact.
While SRK’s environmental practice has been engaging in public sector policy and planning for a number of years, two recent projects undertaken by SRK’s environmental business unit in Johannesburg stand out as having contributed substantially to the national debate on sustainable development.

The first involved compiling and publishing a book on the environmental outlook for South Africa. On behalf of the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), SRK commissioned 12 background papers by South Africa’s leading specialists on subjects ranging from climate change and corporate governance, to biopersity, water, economics, waste management and energy. SRK edited and integrated the papers into a 372-page book, called the South Africa Environment Outlook, that reflects on past and current trends in the environment and development, but, more importantly, presents a rather grim ‘current future’ scenario and four alternative future scenarios that provide a framework for decision making. The book serves as a strategic planning tool for politicians and government, a guide for academics, and a tool to raise the awareness of the general public. Electronic versions of the book can be downloaded from:

In the second project, closely linked to the first, SRK was appointed as a policy advisor to the DEAT, and was responsible, in part, for compiling the National Framework for Sustainable Development, which was approved by Cabinet in 2008. This framework sets the basis for future policy, strategy and action for enhancing progress towards sustainable development. Part of the research conducted for the environmental outlook was used as the basis for much of the framework.

SRK believes that these projects have contributed significantly to the current state of knowledge on the centrality of environmental issues to social and economic progress in South Africa.

Donald Gibson:


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