SI Consulting Projects

A report prepared for the Cities Working Group of the International Resource Panel by Mark Swilling, Blake Robinson, Simon Marvin and Mike Hodson, with case study contributions from Natalie Mayer, Stefanie Swanepoel, Damian Conway, Lauren Tavener-Smith and Anri Landman from the SI team. This report applies the concept of decoupling to the urbanisation challenge, looking at the role cities could play in a transition toward sustainability by investing in infrastructure that supports decoupling. Theoretical arguments are complemented by 30 case studies from around the world that demonstrate the concept of decoupling at the city scale. The project ran over 2 years, and involved the coordination of over 30 authors from around the world. The report was launched in March 2013 in Nairobi jointly by the Director of UNEP, Director of UN Habitat and Secretary-General of ICLEI.

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This report assessed potential opportunities and options to promote a green economy, with a focus on key economic sectors set out by the South Africa's National Development Plan - Vision 2030. A modelling exercise compared scenarios of investments directed to business-as-usual, with scenarios allocated to four critical sectors to a green economy in South Africa, namely: energy, agriculture, transport and natural resource management. The findings of the study showed that strengthening natural resource management is fundamental for sustained economic development and societal well-being.

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As part of a multi-year project with Nedbank aimed at introducing sustainability principles into their homeloans business, we developed a guide for sustainable living aimed at middle to high income South African homeowners. The guides provide a range of interventions from behavioural changes to more expensive investments in new technologies that help homeowners to save resources and money. The guides were launched at the 2013 Green Building Conference, branded as a collaboration between Nedbank, the Sustainability Institute and the GBCSA.

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This report looks at the risks and vulnerabilities that developing countries face with regard to the food-energy-water nexus, and how these can be mitigated via a transition to more sustainable energy and food systems. A particular focus will be on how vulnerable food systems could become more resilient to energy shocks by making more efficient use of energy and by substituting inputs (including energy) for non-renewable inputs.

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This research project was funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development and led by Dr Jeremy Wakeford, with Prof Martin de Wit as co-principal author. The report analyzed the key socioeconomic vulnerabilities to and likely impact of oil price and supply shocks on developing countries, and recommended a broad set of mitigation strategies and policies for ameliorating these impacts. The areas covered include the energy system, transport, agriculture, macro-economy and socioeconomic welfare. The main report is accompanied by four case studies of countries at different stages of development, namely Malawi, India, South Africa (as net oil importers) and Nigeria (a net oil exporter).

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Following on from a project we undertook in 2012 to summarise the SDF for Stellenbosch Municipality, we were approached to develop a new SDF focused on the town of Stellenbosch in an innovative manner that would embed sustainability into the town's future plans. In 2013, we started work on a two-pronged process: (1) using decision-making software to capture insights from local experts to develop scenarios and priorities for the town, and (2) inviting the public to contribute their ideas for improving pockets of Stellenbosch via a website. The two streams will be brought together in the drafting of a new SDF for Stellenbosch town in the coming months.

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This report evaluated the key pressures facing cities in all the sub-regions in Africa, and emphasized the need to make development decisions that respond to both formal and informal systems of trade, housing, land management, service provision and so forth. It proposed that a €˜green urbanism development trajectory that responded to the high levels of poverty and inequality in African cities, as well as the low levels of basic service delivery and infrastructure provisions, be adopted by local, national and regional development actors and agencies. It dealt with the full realm of liveability concerns in African cities, and emphasized the role of the youth as a key resource for transitioning to more sustainable urban living standards, productivity, employment, ecosystems management and governance regimes.

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This is an ongoing collaboration with UNEP that started with a comprehensive review of the approaches to assessing urban metabolisms and green city indicator sets in 2013. This led to the development of a draft toolkit for urban practitioners, designed to be accessible to cities in the developing world. In 2013 and 2014, this was further refined in collaboration with city representatives from Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, and UNEP's partner institutions. The next phase of work is likely to involve piloting the toolkit in cities around the world.

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UN-Habitat approached us to assemble a series of short booklets to educate city decision makers on the latest concepts in urban sustainability, in order to encourage them to contribute toward greener economies. The booklets focused on urban infrastructure, density, ecosystem services and urban competitiveness, and included case studies from around the world to inspire innovative approaches.

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