Walking the sustainability assessment talk - Progressing the practice of environmental impact assessment (EIA)

21 January 2014

Internationally there is a growing demand for environmental impact assessment (EIA) to move away from its traditional focus towards delivering more sustainable outcomes. South Africa is an example of a country where the EIA system seems to have embraced the concept of sustainability. In this paper we test the existing objectives for EIA in South Africa against sustainability principles and then critique the effectiveness of EIA practice in delivering these objectives. The outcome of the research suggests that notwithstanding a strong and explicit sustainability mandate through policy and legislation, the effectiveness of EIA practice falls far short of what is mandated. This shows that further legislative reform is not required to improve effectiveness but rather a focus on changing the behaviour of individual professionals. We conclude by inviting further debate on what exactly practitioners can do to give effect to sustainability in EIA practice.