Environmental Sustainability and Governance

Sustainability thinking is based on the understanding that functional, healthy ecosystems and good environmental quality are a prerequisite for social wellbeing and economic prosperity. We live in complex socio-ecological systems where all human activity influences the area, condition and health of natural systems, which has subsequent consequences for society given our reliance on them and the ecosystem services they generate.

The following key principles[1] are essential for understanding the relationships within these systems and responding accordingly in securing a sustainable future:- That nature is appropriately valued and appreciated in decision making; risk is dealt with transparently and systematically; environmental goals are integrated into policy and activities; the concept of ‘sustainable communities’ is entrenched through effective participation by communities in developmental processes; Decisions consider long term implications in ensuring inter-generational equity; The principle of continuous  improvement is achieved through a commitment to improving practice, and that good governance is essential for achieving all of the preceding .

This theme aims to “improve the above understanding and its application into all aspects of economic activity, from policy through to planning, implementation and operations” through the following specific objectives:

  • To increase the understanding of sustainability through appropriate research, dissemination and training.
  • To empower government, business, and society through the development of new and the refinement of existing tools and systems, to make sustainability thinking the foundational basis for everything we do.
  • To provide a wide range of services that demonstrate the benefits of the sustainability approach to all sectors of society and empower them to improve their contribution to environmental sustainability.

The theme is supported in its work by the other thematic areas at the INR which focus on environmental issues such as environmental change and vulnerability of people impacted by declining environmental systems and quality. The work in these themes generates improved understanding regarding the complexities of our socio-ecological systems, the role of natural systems in these systems and concepts which underpin environmental sustainability such as ecological thresholds and targets.



  • Environmental planning at different natural and administrative scales and for different sectors.
  • Environmental assessment & reporting through the application of the broad suite of assessment and reporting frameworks, tools and processes to support sustainable decision making.
  • Environmental governance achieved through the development of effective and efficient institutional structures, communication and information systems that facilitate appropriate decisions across the developmental life cycle at all levels of governance.

[1] Adapted from: Lovins, A.B. Hargroves, K. and Smith, H. 2005. The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century.

Current Projects

The Institute is currently involved in various projects across the country. Please view list below for more information regarding our projects.


The Department of Rural Development and Agrarian reform (DRDAR) have identified the community of Chevy Chase with forestry potential for establishing a community-based commercial afforestation project.The Chevy Chase community falls in the T34G Quaternary Catchment between the towns of Maclear and Mt Fletcher under Chief Montoeli Lehana of Batlokoa Traditional Authority in the Elundini Local Municipality, Joe Gqabi District – Eastern Cape Province  READ MORE…

Development of an Environmental Management Framework for the Umgungundlovu District Municipality

The uMgungundlovu District Municipality (uMDM) has, with the support of the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), undertaken to develop an Environmental Management Framework (EMF) that builds on the recently completed Strategic Environmental Assessment and Management Plan (SEMP). READ MORE…

Scoping and Environmental Impact Assessment (S&EIA) for Ludidi Community Afforestation in the Eastern Cape

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), through its implementing agent Rural Forestry Development (RFD) has identified new areas with forestry potential for establishing a community-based commercial afforestation project in the Ludidi area, which is an expansion of the Ludidi South forestry project in the Eastern Cape Province. READ MORE…

Development of an Environmental Management Framework for the Amajuba District Municipality

The Amajuba District Municipality (ADM) has embarked on the development of an environmental management framework (EMF). The ADM comprises three local municipalities (LM) i.e. Newcastle, Dannhauser, and Emadlangeni. It is the aim of the ADM to develop an EMF that proactively supports and integrates environmental considerations into decision-making and development planning across the district. The Newcastle LM has also developed an EMF and it is expected there is alignment with the ADM EMF. READ MORE…

Scoping and EIA for the Proposed Expansion of the Pietermaritzburg Airport

Environmental Authorisation was issued by the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) on 14 June 2017 in terms of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations promulgated in Government Notice 38282 (4 December 2014), in terms of Section 24(5) (read with Section 44), of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), No. 107 of 1998, for the proposed expansion of the Pietermaritzburg Airport by the uMsunduzi Municipality. READ MORE…

Development of a Natural Resource Management Strategy and Implementation Plan for KwaZulu-Natal

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) NRM programme represent one of government’s most significant responses to the degradation of natural systems and the loss of associated ecosystem services. These programmes contribute to poverty alleviation through the labour intensive approach to NRM and the associated training and skills development. READ MORE…

Biodiversity Offset Planning for Spring Grove Dam

The INR has been contracted by the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) to create a Biodiversity Offset Plan for Spring Grove Dam. It is a requirement of the Environmental Authorisation for Spring Grove Dam, located on the Mooi River in the KZN Midlands, that the Department of Water Affairs offset the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem function within the dam basin. READ MORE…

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