Sustainability, Economics and Waste

The Sustainability, Economics and Waste (SEW) research group develops and applies innovative tools and capabilities to provide scientific evidence and decision support for the public and private sector; aimed at:

  • Ensuring improved integration of sustainability into policy, development planning and implementation, and all economic activity
  • Unlocking green and circular economic development opportunities in all sectors, including agriculture, mining, energy, water, manufacturing, retail, tourism and waste management (among others)
  • Advancing the transition towards:
    • a green economy -– an economy that is resource-efficient, low-carbon and socially inclusive, and
    • a circular economy in which growth is redefined to focus on positive society-wide benefits, economic activity is decoupled from consumption of resources and degradation of the natural environment, and waste is designed out of the system
  • Supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in particular SDG 12: Sustainable consumption and production
  • Supporting a just transition.


The SEW research group is an interdisciplinary team, offering a diverse range of skills and capabilities.


Modelling and evaluating inter-dependencies between linked social ecological system components, so as to contribute towards maintaining and enhancing systems resilience

  • Sustainability science, including integrative and transdisciplinary approaches and complex systems thinking
  • Systems dynamics modelling
  • Identification and evaluation of social ecological system risks
  • Addressing nexus issues, for example those related to the water-energy-food nexus, the packaging and food waste nexus and the humanitarian-development nexus

Development and analysis of policies, plans, projects, strategies, standards and guidelines; to support the transition towards a green and circular economy and sustainable development

  • Integrated sustainable development planning
  • Adapting green economy and circular economy principles to the SA context
  • Root cause analysis
  • Scenario analysis
  • Sustainability assessment
  • Cost-benefit analysis incorporating social and environmental externalities
  • Multi-criteria decision analysis
  • Indicator and composite index development
  • Enabling/facilitating behavioural change


Assessment of products, services and technologies; so as to inform sustainable business management, eco-efficiency, life cycle management, and sustainable consumption and production

  • Various approaches based on life cycle thinking; including life cycle assessment, life cycle sustainability assessment, product environmental footprinting, water footprinting, carbon footprinting, and design for eco-efficiency
  • Integrated waste management
  • Techno-economic feasibility assessment
  • Assessment of business risk and resilience


Evaluation of economic, social and environmental impacts and trade-offs; such that these can be accounted for in policy, planning and decision making

  • Specialist input into environmental assessment and management processes
  • Environmental and resource economics, including economic valuation of social and environmental externalities, and incorporation of these impacts into cost-benefit analysis


Sector-specific expertise

  • Agricultural economics, sustainable agriculture and food supply systems
  • Alternative development options from post-mining landscapes
  • Development and assessment of bio-economy, bio-refinery, bio-energy and other renewable energy technology options
  • Integrated water resources management, policy and governance
  • Supporting the transition towards sustainable tourism
  • Integrated waste management and modelling, including waste characterisations, waste behaviour surveys, and economic and governance aspects (including development, assessment and review of legislation, policy, regulations and service delivery).
Anton Nahman Smart Places
Anton Nahman