• The South African Coal Roadmap (SACRM)
• Development of a Low Carbon Action Plan for South Africa
• Mainstreaming Sustainable Consumption and Production into National Development Planning with a focus on developing countries
• Investigation into the use of economic instruments to support greenhouse gas mitigation
• An Industrial Ecology Framework for the Coega IDZ East of the Coega River Masterplan
• Anglo American Scope 3 Assessment
• LCA of Packaging Options for Powder Laundry Detergents
• LCA of Milk Production in the Western Cape

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The South African Coal Roadmap (SACRM)

Service area: Strategy; Scenarios and Futures; Research; Climate risks and opportunities

Client: The South African Coal Roadmap is a national initiative supported by the South African Government, the coal industry and related stakeholders (including Anglo Thermal Coal, BHP Billiton, Chamber of Mines, Coaltech, Eskom, Exxaro, Optimum Coal, SANEDI, Sasol, Shanduka, and Transnet). It is currently coordinated and administered by the Fossil Fuel Foundation of Africa.

Problem Statement: Stakeholders in the South African coal industry recognised the need to detail and assess options and scenarios for the future development of coal with the aim of maximising the economic opportunities for coal as a valuable energy and chemical resource whilst ensuring a better quality of life for current and future generations.

The Green House approach: The Green House was appointed as technical project managers to the SACRM initiative. Phase I of the project, completed in November 2011, included the preparation of a detailed research document which provides a synthesis of information pertaining to the value chain, and a multi-stakeholder consultation process to develop three high-level scenarios that will be explored in Phase II.


  • A detailed baseline document, including technology, sustainability, logistics and other considerations is now available to the coal industry and government, to help support decision-making and policy setting.
  • A high-level scenario document describes a range of possible futures for the industry.

The process has been successful in bringing together the South African coal industry to discuss its key challenges and opportunities relating to logistics, infrastructure, exports, governance, climate change, environment, social impacts and water.

The Phase I project outputs will be available from: www.coaltech.co.za, www.saneri.co.za or www.fossilfuel.co.za after public release.

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Development of a Low Carbon Action Plan for South Africa

Service area: Strategy; Scenarios and futures; Research; Climate risks and opportunities; Systems modelling; Mediated modelling; Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis; Technology Assessment; Sustainability metrics and indicators.

Client: WWF South Africa

Problem Statement: WWF South Africa identified the need to further understand the “why, what and how” of low-carbon planning in South Africa, which like all emerging economies faces a multitude of developmental challenges. The Green House was part of a consortium that undertook “blue skies” research to develop a practical approach to low-carbon planning.

The Green House approach: Through a series of structured brainstorming sessions, desk-top research and testing, the consortium developed a low-carbon planning framework, which included: a carbon budget framing; stakeholder-developed quantitative systems modelling; a suite of low-carbon and development indicators; and an outline of the institutional and process requirements.

Outcomes: A framework and set of tools to support low-carbon planning in South Africa was developed, which has at its core the collaborative development of system dynamics models, undertaken through mediated modelling. The approach is framed by the concept of a carbon budget which talks to a finite carbon space in which we need to live, between now and 2050. These approaches and framings will likely be tested in further stages of the project.

For the summary publication which originated from this work, click here. Please email info@tgh.co.za to request a copy of the full project report.

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Mainstreaming Sustainable Consumption and Production into National Development Planning with a focus on developing countries

Service area: Research; Training

Client: United Nations Environment Programme – Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (UNEP-DTIE)

Problem statement: Achieving sustainable consumption and production is not an isolated activity but requires interventions across the policy and economic space. Supporting such interventions is more challenging in developing economies, which have limited resources and are simultaneously trying to address other challenges such as development and poverty alleviation. The client commissioned this work to draw together world best practice and experience to develop a guideline for integrating Sustainable Consumption and Production across all elements of National Development Planning.

The Green House approach: A handbook was compiled through an extensive review of the academic, development and open-source literature, coupled with extensive interviews with development practitioners from around the world. The project required an in-depth understanding of the range of sustainability issues including those relating to land, water, air pollution and natural resources, coupled with policy and planning approaches and development challenges.

Outcomes: The project led to the publication of a handbook, published by UNEP, which may be downloaded by clicking here.

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Investigation into the use of economic instruments to support greenhouse gas mitigation

Service area: Technology assessment; Research; Climate risks and opportunities

Client: IDC/Fund for Research into Industrial Development, Growth and Equity (FRIDGE)

Problem statement: The Green House was part of a consortium commissioned to explore the use of economic instruments for greenhouse gas emissions mitigation. The work required a comprehensive understanding of mitigation technologies available to different sectors, including costs, risks, level of development and mitigation potential.

The Green House approach: The Green House’s role was to provide this technical expertise for the mining, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals and electricity supply sectors. The Green House was also integral to developing the technology evaluation methodology used in the study.

Being primarily a research study, the outcomes were achieved through an extensive review of academic and open literature, supplemented by our own extensive knowledge of the sectors being explored.

Outcomes: A position paper was developed which provides an input into policy and effort sharing negotiation surrounding greenhouse gas mitigation in South Africa. Included in this paper is a comprehensive summary of the mitigation technologies available across the sectors.

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An Industrial Ecology Framework for the Coega IDZ East of the Coega River Masterplan

Service area: Industrial Ecology; Research; Strategy; Technology assessment

Client: Coega Development Corporation (CDC)

Problem statement: Development of a masterplan for an Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) requires consideration of a host of factors: water reticulation, roads, piping, transport, zoning of businesses, environmental management etc. In development of the masterplan for the Coega IDZ East of the Coega River, the CDC recognised the value in using the Industrial Ecology/Industrial Symbiosis framing to help identify activities which, if co-located, could make use of each others’ waste streams and by-products, and so improve not only economic but also environmental performance. The Green House was commissioned to develop this element of the masterplan.

The Green House approach: Initially a review was conducted of the anchor tenants which Coega was hoping to attract to various areas of the IDZ. A detailed technical review was conducted to gain an in-depth understanding of the inputs and outputs associated with these tenants’ activities. Using this information, potential synergistic partnerships were identified. Ongoing interaction with the designers of the other elements of the masterplan was required to ensure the Industrial Ecology recommendations were in line with other elements of the plan, such as piping, zoning, rail infrastructure etc.

Outcomes: The CDC has a sound basis from which to understand which tenants are suitable to attract to the development from an Industrial Symbiosis (and hence environmentally and economic advantageous) point of view. The outcomes are also useful in guiding where different tenants could be positioned on the site. It also identifies which tenants are potentially not compatible for co-location.

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Anglo American Scope 3 Assessment

Service category: Value chain carbon footprint; Climate risks and opportunities; Strategy

Client: Anglo American Plc

Problem Statement: Anglo American Plc is one of the world’s largest mining companies. As a major consumer of energy and large producer of coal, the company has long been engaged in climate change issues and is committed to improving energy efficiency and minimising greenhouse gas emissions. Anglo American has participated in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) since its launch, disclosing its greenhouse gas emission data and climate change strategy. While the company has systems in place to calculate its Scope 1 and 2 emissions, the emissions associated with the value chain (or Scope 3 emissions) were more uncertain, with data only available to calculate a few Scope 3 categories. The Green House was approached to assist Anglo American in identifying which Scope 3 emissions were likely to be significant and to begin to quantify these emissions for the Anglo American Thermal and Metallurgical Coal Business Units (BUs).

The Green House approach: The Green House applied the WRI and WBCSD Greenhouse Gas Protocol Scope 3 accounting and reporting standard (which was still in draft form at that stage) in undertaking this work. This involved mapping the value chains for all of Anglo American’s business units; prioritising Scope 3 categories based on an understanding of the extended value chain activities of the different business units; and quantifying priority Scope 3 emissions. This last task involved collection of activity data, collection and derivation of appropriate emission factors, and calculation of Scope 3 emissions using spreadsheet models developed for this task.

Outcomes: Using fairly limited data, The Green House were able to quantify priority Scope 3 emission categories for the Thermal and Metallurgical Coal Business Units as well as provide an order of magnitude assessment of Scope 3 emissions for the remaining units, namely: Copper, Iron Ore, Diamonds, Platinum, and Other Mining and Industrial. This information serves to identify hotspots of emissions along the different value chains and direct future data collection and mitigation efforts for the company. Scope 3 reporting under the CDP is now also more complete. The summary report can be downloaded: Click here

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LCA of Packaging Options for Powder Laundry Detergents

Service area: Life Cycle Assessment; Product carbon footprint; Water footprint

Client: Unilever

Problem statement: The client required a scientific study that weighed the potential environmental impacts of packaging laundry powder in laminate plastic bags against supplying it in traditional cardboard cartons.

The Green House approach: The Green House conducted an ISO 14040:2006 compliant study. The system boundary was selected to catch all possible differences between the two packaging options, notably the different material extraction and production routes, the difference in transport impacts (due to the different packaging weights), and their different waste management routes.

To make the results as relevant to South Africa as possible, country-specific data was collected wherever feasible. Factory visits were undertaken and data provided for forming and filling the packaging, manufacture of the plastic bags and cardboard cartons, and manufacture of the corrugate boxes used for secondary packaging.

The Green House’s proprietary life cycle inventory data were used for all upstream and downstream processes (i.e. the production of the materials used in the manufacture of the bags and cartons, and the final disposal of the materials). The Green House’s LCI database is based on the licensed ecoinvent database, adapted with relevant South African fuel, electricity and transport data.

Outcomes: An ISO compliant LCA report on which the independent critical review of the study was based. This provided the client with the assurance they required that the data, methods and conclusions taken in the study were sound and defensible. In the report, the plastic bag and carton were compared on carbon footprint, water footprint, human health damage, ecosystem quality, and non-renewable resource consumption.

A summary report was also produced with easy-to-understand reporting of the life cycle indicators developed in the main report.

The bags’ better environmental performance – most notably their lower carbon footprint – is dependent on the bags being disposed of in a sanitary landfill facility (plastic degrades very slowly in a landfill, resulting in the landfill essentially becoming a carbon sink). The study therefore provided recommendations to Unilever that they should encourage good waste management practices by their consumers, particularly to avoid the litter of plastic bags in open veld, and to find alternative waste management practices for the bags. For example, using the plastic bags as an energy source, e.g. in cement kilns, could allow the system to be “credited” with the avoided use of coal in the kilns.

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LCA of Milk Production in the Western Cape

Service Area: Life Cycle Assessment; Research; product carbon footprint; water footprint; Sustainability metrics and indicators.

Client: WWF

Problem statement: To gain an understanding of the impacts of milk production along its full supply chain and to identify key points of intervention for improvement.

The Green House approach: The first step of the study was to clearly define the system: the production and supply of fresh milk to the consumer, with the milk produced in the Western Cape and sold within the greater Cape Town area.

The system thus incorporates milk production on the farm, through to processing, distribution, retail and consumption. The life cycle of products used in the milk system are also included, such as the manufacture and disposal of the milk packaging. All transport steps are also included (i.e. the transport of milk through its value chain, as well as the transport of all materials used in the processes).

The next step was to decide on a data collection strategy and identify relevant data sources. These included site specific sources (dairy farms, dairy processes and a major local retail chain), South African agricultural statistics, and The Green House’s proprietary LCI database.

The final step was to decide on the metrics against which the milk supply chain would be assessed. The “standard” set of life cycle impact assessment indicators of global warming potential (carbon footprint), acidification potential, eutrophication potential and fossil fuel depletion were selected, but particular areas of concern around water resources and biodiversity impacts arising from dairy farming in the Western Cape meant that this set was not sufficient. LCIA has historically not assessed water and land use very well, with these impact categories either missing completely or very simply addressed (e.g. where the water depletion indicator is simply a sum of water use across the life cycle). A particular component of the study was thus to develop water and biodiversity indicators relevant to the South African context.

Outcomes: The outcome of the study was an LCA report and executive summary, which detailed the emissions and environmental impacts along the milk supply chain in the Western Cape, whilst placing the results in the international context.

Various stakeholder engagement meetings and workshops formed part of the deliverables of the study, including feedback sessions to the data providers of the study (the farmers and the retail partner) as well as a public workshop: Understanding the Applications of Life Cycle Assessment to the Food Industry, which was held at the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, Kirstenbosch Gardens, on the 25 May 2011.

A “snapshot” of the carbon footprint and water footprint of fresh milk can be seen in the following figures:

The “hotspot” in carbon footprint is clearly at the farm stage, although milk processing, retail and the consumer are more important than might have been expected from similar non-South African specific studies in the literature (and reflect the carbon-intensive energy mix of South Africa). These life cycle stages, which together account for a third of the total GHG emissions over the supply chain, all offer additional options for intervention, rather than just focussing on the dairy farm itself.

The milk packaging, although it tends to receive a lot of attention, is relatively insignificant, with a carbon footprint equivalent to about 1.5 tablespoons of the milk inside the bottle. The emphasis of packaging development should thus be less on the weight or type of materials, but ensuring that every drop of the contents is ultimately consumed.

Between 500 and 1,000 litres of water are required to produce a litre of milk (depending on the particular farming practices). This water is overwhelmingly required for growing feed and pasture for the cows, with all other water use on the dairy farm and across the supply chain very small in comparison (contributing

  • The water indicator developed assesses the importance of a particular water resource use by considering the extent to which this water is extracted from the ecological reserves required to sustain ecosystem health.
  • The biodiversity indicator uses land as a proxy indicator and equates the importance of a given natural area with the level of threat of its vegetation type – critical (CR), endangered (EN), vulnerable (VU) or least threatened (LT), in descending order of significance to biodiversity maintenance.

The location of the farm itself is shown to be very important in terms of its water resource and biodiversity impact, but also critical is where purchased feed is grown, especially where maize is grown, as this forms such a significant portion of livestock feed. A good choice of feed supplier can significantly reduce the farm-gate water and biodiversity footprint.