SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT: DRESSING UP SEA? â EXPERIENCES FROM SOUTH AFRICA
Sustainability Assessment is a recent addition to the environmental assessment toolbox that is not currently applied in South Africa in any formal way. However, there appear to be remarkable similarities between what is commonly proposed as Sustainability Assessment and how Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has been conceptualised and promoted in South Africa. This paper therefore investigates the following questions:.â¢ Could the South African concept and application of SEA be what is required for Sustainability Assessment?â¢ If Sustainability Assessment is "dressing up" SEA, is there really a need to introduce a new tool?â¢ If there is a need for a new tool, are there lessons learnt from the application of SEA in South Africa, which can be used to inform the further development and indeed practice of Sustainability Assessment?This paper identifies from the literature some key criteria that should underpin Sustainability Assessment that are then used to identify some of the shortcomings of SEA, both as promoted and as practised in South Africa. Two sets of criteria form the basis of the analysis: one relating to sustainability assessment processes and the other to the concept of sustainability itself. As a result of this analysis, the paper makes recommendations as to how the practice of SEA in South Africa may be improved to better align with the principles of Sustainability Assessment. These recommendations are also likely to be relevant to other countries seeking to develop Sustainability Assessment processes based upon SEA. Finally, the potential for the emerging field of sustainability science as an underpinning body of knowledge is introduced.
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