Certification of
Environmental Assessment Practitioners
in South Africa

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Info Booklet Participating Organisations Constitution

Information Booklet
SEPTEMBER 2001

TABLE OF CONTENTS:


 i. PARTICIPATING ORGANISATIONS
1. INTRODUCTION
1.1 BACKGROUND
1.2 WHAT IS CERTIFICATION AND WHY DO WE NEED IT ?
1.3 PURPOSE OF THIS BOOKLET

2. WHAT KIND OF CERTIFICATION SYSTEM IS BEING DEVELOPED ?
2.1 THE OBJECTIVES OF THE VOLUNTARY CERTIFICATION ARE TO:
3. WHO WOULD BE CERTIFIED ?
3.1 AN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT PRACTITIONER IS SOMEONE WHO:

4. WHAT CRITERIA ARE BEING USED TO CERTIFY ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
    PRACTITIONERS ?

4.1 ACADEMIC QUALIFICATION:
4.2 PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE:
4.3 CORE COMPENTENCIES:
4.4 SPECIAL CASES:

5. HOW DOES THE CERTIFICATION PROCESS WORK ?
5.1 CERTIFICATION PROCEDURE
5.2 REGISTER OF CERTIFIED ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT PRACTITIONERS

6. CONDUCT AND CODE OF ETHICS
6.1 CONDUCT:
6.2 CODE OF ETHICS:

7. APPLICATION FORMS
7.1 CERTIFICATION APPLICATION FORM:
7.2 FORM FOR COMPLETION BY FIRST SPONSOR:
7.3 FORM FOR COMPLETION BY SECOND SPONSOR:
7.4 REGISTER FORM:

8. CONTACT DETAILS OF SECRETARIAT & REFEREES:

i. PARTICIPATING ORGANISATIONS

  1. Association for the Advancement of Black Scientists, Engineers and Technologists (AABSET)
  2. The Association of Consulting Town and Regional Planners (ACTRP)
  3. Department of Ars, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST)
  4. Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT)
  5. Environmental Law Association (ELA)
  6. International Association for Impact Assessment South African Affiliate (IAIAsa)
  7. Institute of Landscape Architects of South Africa (ILASA)
  8. Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWM)
  9. The South African Association of Consulting Engineers (SAACE)
  10. South African Black Technical and Allied Careers Organisation (SABTACO)
  11. South African Council for the Landscape Architectural Profession (SACLAP)
  12. South African Institute of Architects (SAIA)
  13. South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE)
  14. Southern African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Scientists (SAIE&ES)
  15. South African Planning Institution (SAPI)
  16. South African Institute for Engineering and Environmental Geologists (SAIEG)
  17. Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA)
1. INTRODUCTION
1.1 BACKGROUND

In this document the term "environment" encompasses biological, physical, social, economic and cultural elements. This definition reflects the holistic interpretation of "environment" in South African legislation and policy in recent years, as reflected in our National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act 107 of 1998), amongst others.

Environmental assessment and management involves the consideration and integration of both biophysical and socio-economic aspects of the environment. Environmental practitioners thus comprise professionals from a wide range of initial disciplines.

There is currently no certification available for environmental practitioners who do not have a natural science background, and this deficiency has become a matter of serious concern to the environmental profession.

To address this deficiency, a working group consisting of representatives from the Southern African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Scientists (SAIE&ES) and the South African Affiliate of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIAsa) was established in May 1998 to investigate the need for certification of environmental practitioners. To invite comment from all possible stakeholders, a discussion document was prepared and workshopped regionally, made available on the IAIAsa website, circulated to members of both the SAIE&ES and IAIAsa, and presented in a revised form at the IAIAsa conference in September 1998.

In April 1999, the joint working group decided to proceed with the development of a system of voluntary certification for environmental practitioners, initially focusing on environmental assessment practitioners. In June 1999 a Certification Advisory Committee was set up to develop criteria for environmental assessment practitioner certification, to initiate a process leading to the establishment of an Interim Certification Board and to draft Terms of Reference for that Board.

In February 2001 an Interim Certification Board was established under the auspices of the Southern African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Scientists. The Interim Certification Board is to operate as an autonomous body, run by its member organisations, for a trial period of 2 years. The function of the Interim Certification Board is to provide an operating structure for the certification process.

1.2 WHAT IS CERTIFICATION AND WHY DO WE NEED IT ?

Environmental assessment has been practised extensively in South Africa since the 1970s as a means of considering the environmental implications of development, although there were no legal requirements at that stage to do so. In 1989, the Council for the Environment developed and promoted the Integrated Environmental Management procedure which reinforced the use of environmental assessment as a tool to be used throughout the planning process in an iterative way to minimise negative impacts of proposed activities and optimise benefits, and to strive for sustainable development.

The promulgation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (R1182 and R1183 of September 1997) in terms of the Environment Conservation Act, 1989 (Act 73 of 1989) has made it compulsory to undertake environmental assessments for those activities likely to have a "substantial detrimental effect" on the environment. Also, the Regulations require the use of independent environmental consultants to carry out such environmental assessments. In response to these requirements, there has been a rapid growth in the number of environmental practitioners entering the environmental assessment field. As more and more practitioners enter the environmental management profession, the need to uphold professional standards and provide some level of assurance about the quality of environmental assessment work is underlined, and the imperative for certification grows.

The benefits for both practitioners and their clients of a system of certification include providing a safeguard for clients and recognising the professionalism of members.

Certification is the process used by certifying bodies to assess an individual's capabilities so as to recognise that the individual has met specified occupational standards. Certification is the formal way by which the education, training and experience of practitioners is recognised through the granting of a certificate. (Certification is often confused with accreditation, which is described as the process used by accrediting bodies to determine and recognise whether an educational course, programme or institution has met pre-determined training criteria.)

1.3 PURPOSE OF THIS BOOKLET

This booklet aims to:

1.3.1 Explain what kind of certification system is being developed, and its objectives.
1.3.2 Describe who would be targeted for certification.
1.3.3 List the criteria that will be used to certify environmental assessment
          practitioners.
1.3.4 Outline the certification procedure.
1.3.5 Present the code of conduct for certified professionals.

2. WHAT KIND OF CERTIFICATION SYSTEM IS BEING
    DEVELOPED ?

An assessment of several certification options found voluntary certification to be the most appropriate immediate strategy to introduce quality control in environmental assessment practice in South Africa. It is relatively flexible, inexpensive, can be introduced relatively quickly, and would have less adverse impact on existing environmental practitioners.

Although voluntary in the short- to medium-term, this system of certification could form the basis of a regulated, compulsory system in the longer term, possibly in line with provisions in national environmental legislation and/or the professional standards set by the National Qualifications Framework [in terms of the South African Qualifications Authority Act of 1995].

The proposed system would allow for the certification of environmental assessment practitioners from a wide range of different backgrounds according to criteria chosen specifically to reflect the requirements of the environmental assessment profession.

2.1 THE OBJECTIVES OF THE VOLUNTARY CERTIFICATION ARE TO:

2.1.1 Advance the practice of, and promote quality in, environmental assessment.

2.1.2 Create and maintain public confidence in the advice and professional opinions of certified environmental assessment practitioners as well-educated and experienced professionals who have pledged to uphold a defined code of conduct, and to act in the best interest of the environment and sustainable development.

2.1.3 Provide environmental authorities with quality assurance regarding environmental assessment practitioners appointed to conduct environmental assessments.

2.1.4 Guide environmental assessment practitioners, government agencies, educational institutions and the public in defining minimum standards of education, experience and core competencies for professional environmental assessment practitioners, and to encourage environmental assessment practitioners to meet such standards.

2.1.5 Help the public to evaluate environmental assessment practitioners by establishing a procedure for critical peer evaluation based upon clearly defined minimum educational, core competency, experience, ethical and practice requirements.

2.1.6 Help to develop an understanding of careers in environmental assessment, assist in defining career pathways for environmental assessment practitioners, and promote lifelong learning.

3. WHO WOULD BE CERTIFIED ?

Consideration was initially given to the full spectrum of environmental practitioners. However, it was decided that voluntary certification would initially be limited to the environmental assessment practitioner; whether in private practice, or in the employ of academic institutions, industry, government or non-government organisations.

3.1 AN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT PRACTITIONER IS SOMEONE WHO:

3.1.1 Co-ordinates, manages and integrates the various components of environmental assessment throughout the planning process. [The term "environmental assessment practitioner" therefore does not apply to specialists in particular fields who may be involved in, or asked to give input to, particular stages of an environmental assessment from the perspective of his/her field of expertise.]

3.1.2 Has received an appropriate interdisciplinary training covering both the natural and human environment. [The term "interdisciplinary" is used to indicate a shared ethical foundation and values between different disciplines in perceiving the environment and environmental problems, which enables collaboration and co-operation in striving for environmental quality.]

3.1.3 Has experience in environmental management, environmental assessment and related studies.

3.1.4 Demonstrates core competencies that are considered essential to the environmental assessment profession [Section 4 of this booklet].

4. WHAT CRITERIA ARE BEING USED TO CERTIFY
    ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT PRACTITIONERS ?

There are three considerations used to evaluate environmental practitioners, namely: their substantive knowledge, gained through formal training; skills and competence, gained with experience; and their values or ethics.

These considerations effectively translate into the need for applicants to satisfy a combination of criteria to achieve professional certification, as listed below. In addition, certified environmental assessment practitioners would need to undertake formally to conduct themselves in a responsible and ethical manner [Section 6 of this booklet].

a) Academic qualification.

b) Professional experience.

c) Core competencies.

Each of these criteria is addressed below. In addition, provision has been made in 4.4 to consider "special case" applicants who do not fulfil the criteria as set out in 4.1 and 4.2.

4.1 ACADEMIC QUALIFICATION:

A degree in environmental practice from a South African university or Technikon (or recognised equivalent),

OR

At least a degree from a South African university or Technikon (or recognised equivalent)

AND

A further post-graduate degree in environmental practice, from a South African University or Technikon (or recognised equivalent).

IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT:
Consideration would also be given to those applicants who have a diploma in environmental practice, as well as to graduates who have attended short courses in environmental assessment. Relatively more professional working experience would, however, be required in such cases (see below).

4.2 PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE:

The requirements for certification in terms of professional experience in responsible charge, obtained subsequent to the academic training, are given in the table below.

Qualifications from a University, Technikon or Recognised Equivalent

Minimum Experience in Responsible Charge Needed

Degree in environmental practice

3 years subsequent professional experience

Degree
And
a postgraduate degree in environmental practice

3 years subsequent professional experience

Degree
And
a short course or diploma in environmental practice

5 years subsequent professional experience

Diploma in environmental practice

6 years subsequent professional experience


4.3 CORE COMPETENCIES

Applicants would have to show competence in the following areas:

4.3.1 Demonstrated ability to think holistically about the structure, functioning and performance of the environmental system, not simply focusing on maximising the efficiency of one of its elements.

4.3.2 Proven competence in analysing the affected environment in such a way as to identify significant issues, problems and/or characteristics, and distinguish between underlying causes and superficial symptoms.

4.3.3 Proficiency in integrating and co-ordinating significant components of both the socio-economic and biophysical environments in such a way as to evaluate options and trade-offs, and facilitate sound decision making.

4.3.4 Demonstrated ability to make balanced judgements and objectively evaluate alternatives.

4.3.5 Proven competence in the application of tools contained in the Integrated Environmental Management 'toolbox', including:

4.3.5.1 Scoping and public participation.

4.3.5.2 Systematic and explicit assessment and evaluation of environmental impacts.

4.3.5.3 Mitigation and optimisation of impacts.

4.3.5.4 Monitoring and evaluation of impacts.

4.3.5.5 Environmental management plans/programmes.

4.3.6 A thorough understanding of the concept of sustainable development, embracing:

4.3.6.1 Ecological sustainability, recognised as the enabling factor for sustainable development. [That is, the maintenance of life-support systems and biodiversity on which development depends should be seen as a priority, and a risk-averse and cautious approach should be followed where there is uncertainty about impacts on the natural environment].

4.3.6.2 Social sustainability equity and environmental justice.

4.3.6.3 Economic efficiency.

4.3.7 A sound working knowledge of environmental legislation and policy.

4.3.8 Demonstrated ability to manage competently an interdisciplinary team.

4.3.9 Proven ability to recognise when to involve specialists, to select and appoint appropriate specialists, and to draw up sound Terms of Reference for these specialists that address the particular needs of that project or piece of work.

4.3.10 Demonstrated proficiency in interpersonal and communication skills, both in oral and written form.

4.4 SPECIAL CASES

In "special cases" the Interim Certification Board may request any additional material or information deemed necessary to consider such applications for certification. In addition, the Interim Certification Board may ask for an interview if there is any doubt as to the credentials or competence of an applicant.

Those practitioners who do not meet the certification criteria in terms of academic qualifications, but who have been undertaking environmental assessments in South Africa prior to the introduction of the certification system, may be certified if their work is judged to be of sufficient standard.

5. HOW WILL THE CERTIFICATION PROCESS WORK ?

The Interim Certification Board will be responsible for facilitating and supporting the voluntary certification process for an initial period of two years. After this period, the process will be reviewed, and amendments recommended as appropriate. A Certification Board will then be set up, comprising certified environmental assessment practitioners.

Ultimately, a Certification Board will evaluate applications for certification based on the applicant's academic records, documented experience and reports from two already certified environmental assessment practitioners who are willing to sponsor the applicant.

Initially, however, in the absence of certified environmental assessment practitioners, reports from two sponsors are required in support of the application for certification. Sponsors should preferably be chosen from the Interim Certification Board's list of referees. These referees are to be well respected individuals in the field of environmental assessment, preferably leaders in the field, who clearly satisfy all the certification requirements and whose judgement is deemed sound. Referees have been nominated by the Interim Certification Board member organisations and selected to ensure as balanced a representation as possible. Should none of the listed referees be known to the applicant, two other reputable sponsors who can vouch for the applicant's competence in the field of environmental assessment should be chosen.

The Interim Certification Board will evaluate applications based on the documentation received from the applicant [amongst others, curriculum vitae, certified academic record, list of reports and/or publications, membership and standing in relevant professional bodies, past employer/s' references, mentor/s' letters of support] and the referees' or other sponsors' reports. Where deemed necessary, additional material or information may be requested from the applicant, or an independent referee may be asked to evaluate the applicant, and/or an interview may be arranged with the applicant.

Applicants must pay an initial application fee to cover administrative costs. If successful, the applicant would be certified for a period determined by the Interim Certification Board, during which time s/he will pay an annual subscription fee entitling him/her to participate in and benefit from the activities and publications of the Interim Certification Board. Certified environmental assessment practitioners may make known their professional certification to peers and clients.

At the end of the certification period, the environmental assessment practitioner would have to submit details of his/her work experience, professional development and involvement in environmental assessment to justify certification for a further period.

IT NEEDS TO BE NOTED THAT:
The Interim Certification Board will evaluate applicants only in terms of the stated criteria, and based on information supplied, the authenticity of which would be taken in good faith.

5.1 CERTIFICATION PROCEDURE

Application submitted to secretariat together with the application fee and a signed declaration by the applicant that all documentation submitted is accurate and correct.

Sponsors' forms submitted to secretariat as organised by applicant.

Secretariat to inform Certification Committee when complete applications and sponsors' forms are available for scrutiny, and forward the Evaluation Sheet to Committee members.

Certification Committee to meet and discuss application/s monthly and prepare recommendations and supporting motivation to go to ICB.

Application form/s, together with the Certification Committee's recommendation, to go to the ICB quarterly.

If the Board members approve certification, then an EAP certificate is issued.

If the Board members do not approve certification, then Secretariat informs the applicant of the outcome, together with recommendations appropriate to the applicant's circumstances with a view to future certification.


5.2 REGISTER OF CERTIFIED ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
     PRACTITIONERS

The Interim Certification Board will compile and update a Register of certified environmental assessment practitioners. This Register will be made available to all certified environmental assessment practitioners and to member organisations of the Interim Certification Board. In addition, this Register will be made available by the Interim Certification Board to other organisations on request, and on terms or conditions decided by the Interim Certification Board.

The Register will give the names and contact details of all certified environmental assessment practitioners, their qualifications and areas of key competence.

6. CONDUCT AND CODE OF ETHICS

This voluntary certification system is being established to uphold standards of the environmental assessment profession and ensure quality control. To this end, a Code of Ethics has been established to guide the activities of certified environmental assessment practitioners. The Code will be binding on all certified environmental assessment practitioners. In addition, all certified environmental assessment practitioners are required to follow the International Association for Impact Assessment South African Affiliate's Code of Practice, as revised from time to time.

6.1 CONDUCT:

6.1.1 Certified Environmental Assessment Practitioners are required to act in accordance with the IAIAsa's Code of Practice, as amended from time to time, and to abide by the Interim Certification Board's Code of Ethics [see 6.2 below].

6.1.2 The Interim Certification Board is empowered to initiate any form of investigation and to take any disciplinary action against any certified Environmental Assessment Practitioner it may deem advisable for an alleged breach of the Code of Ethics or Code of Practice.

6.1.3 Allegations or complaints regarding such a breach may be lodged with the Interim Certification Board by any interested or affected party, and should give written description of the details and description of the alleged breach, specific clauses of the Code/s which have been transgressed, as well as the relationship between the complainant and the certified Environmental Assessment Practitioner.

6.1.4 The Interim Certification Board will establish a disciplinary committee to deal with allegations or complaints of breach of the Code of Ethics or Code of Practice.

6.1.5 The disciplinary committee will undertake to deal with the alleged breach or complaint within an agreed on time period after receipt of such allegation or complaint and associated documentation.

6.1.6 As part of the investigation into an alleged breach of either Code, the accused Environmental Assessment Practitioner will be informed of the complaint, provided with copies of related correspondence, and given an opportunity to respond in writing to such complaint within a specified time period.

6.1.7 Where deemed appropriate and necessary by the disciplinary committee, the complainant may be given an opportunity to submit written comment on the defendant's response to the alleged breach. Thereafter, the defendant should be given a final opportunity to respond in writing, after which no further documentation should be entertained by the disciplinary committee.

6.1.8 Having undertaken an investigation, the committee will submit its findings to the Interim Certification Board, together with a brief description of the circumstances surrounding the alleged breach or complaint, for approval. The Interim Certification Board may accept the recommendations of the disciplinary committee, may modify these recommendations, or may refer the matter back to this committee for additional investigation and report back.

6.1.9 Disciplinary action can take the form of a reprimand, suspension or termination of certified status. The latter may be waived on condition that the accused Environmental Assessment Practitioner undertakes specified remedial action.

6.1.10 The Interim Certification Board will inform both the complainant and the accused Environmental Assessment Practitioner of the outcome of the investigation.

6.1.11 The outcome of the disciplinary investigation will be made known to all certified Environmental Assessment Practitioners, and to Interim Certification Board member organisations who will, in turn, make these findings known to their members.

6.2 CODE OF ETHICS:

6.2.1 Environmental assessment practitioners shall carry out their professional activities, as far as possible, in accordance with emerging principles of sustainable development, the highest standards of environmental conservation and quality, and in compliance with the letter and intent of relevant environmental legislation.

6.2.2 Environmental assessment practitioners shall at all times place the integrity of the environment, including conservation and sustainable use of the biophysical environment and the social welfare, health and safety aspects of the socio-economic environment, above any commitment to sectional or private interests.

6.2.3 Environmental assessment practitioners shall ensure the incorporation of environmental considerations from the earliest stages of project conception or policy development.

6.2.4 Environmental assessment practitioners shall not conduct professional activities in a manner involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or bias.

6.2.5 Environmental assessment practitioners will clearly differentiate between facts and opinions in their work.

6.2.6 Environmental assessment practitioners will, to the best of their ability, keep informed of advances in environmental assessment practice, and will integrate such knowledge into their professional activities.

6.2.7 Environmental assessment practitioners will inform a prospective client or employer of any professional or personal interests which may impair the objectivity of their work.

6.2.8 Environmental assessment practitioners will not seek employment, grants or gain, or attempt to injure the reputation or opportunities for employment of another environmental assessment practitioner by false, biased or undocumented claims or accusations, by any other malicious action, or by offers of gifts or favours.

6.2.9 Environmental assessment practitioners will, to the best of their ability, use the best available information.

6.2.10 Environmental assessment practitioners should take responsibility for the findings of the environmental assessment. (However, the environmental assessment practitioner cannot be held responsible for decisions made by other parties, purportedly based on the findings of the environmental assessment.)

6.2.11 Environmental assessment practitioners must only undertake particular environmental assessment work in a position of responsible charge where they have the relevant expertise and experience to undertake that work competently.

6.2.12 Environmental assessment practitioners shall not advertise their professional services in a self-laudatory manner that may discredit the profession.

6.2.13 Environmental assessment practitioners shall not misrepresent or allow or permit misrepresentation of their own or their associates' academic or professional qualifications, or exaggerate their degree of responsibility for any work of a professional nature.

6.2.14 Environmental assessment practitioners shall comply with the objectives of the Interim Certification Board, as well as any By-laws or rules laid down by the Interim Certification Board.

7. APPLICATION FORMS

This online version of the Information Booklet does not include the various forms required for application. You can download the Information Booklet in Word 97 format, which includes the forms listed below, from the Downloads page.

7.1 CERTIFICATION APPLICATION FORMS

This form is not available online but cane be downloaded seperately from the Information Booklet. Visit the Downloads page.

7.2 FORM FOR COMPLETION BY FIRST SPONSOR

This form is not available online but cane be downloaded seperately from the Information Booklet. Visit the Downloads page.

7.3 FORM FOR COMPLETION BY SECOND SPONSOR

This form is not available online but cane be downloaded seperately from the Information Booklet. Visit the Downloads page.

7.4 REGISTER FORM

This form is not available online but cane be downloaded seperately from the Information Booklet. Visit the Downloads page.

8. CONTACT DETAILS OF SECRETARIAT & REFEREES

Should you want to find out more about the certification system, and/or wish to participate in this process, contact:

www.eapsa.co.za

The Interim Certification Board's list of referees is displayed on this website, or can be obtained from the Secretariat on request.

Interim Certification Board Secretariat
P.O. Box 1749
NOORDHOEK
7979

Tel/Fax: 021 - 789 1385

Email: eacertify@intekom.co.za

 

Certification of natural science-based environmental practitioners is undertaken by the South African Council of Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP) and the South African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Scientists (SAIE&ES).

'Environmental Practice' is defined as interdisciplinary study covering the fields of both the biophysical and socio-economic environment, including an environmental assessment component which provides training in the core competencies described in 4.3 .