On a sustainability basis, the most favourable of the four effluent treatment options was:

• Neutralisation of the effluent with lime, which included a small reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment facility to treat non-routine discharges to the local river system

The opportunities that could feasibly improve the sustainability outcomes with this option were:

• Replacing the proposed reverse osmosis plant with a wetland to treat irregular effluent surges that needed discharging from site

• Using the precipitate from the effluent as a cement alternative which would produce aconstruction product with a low greenhouse gas

• Outsourcing the limestone quarry to a local business and creating regional enterprise development through a Foundation that had been established by the owner of the operation

SUSOP showed that the sustainability opportunities could be achieved with no significant increase in cost – improving the risk profile of the project


By applying the SUSOP process and using leadingedge sustainable development techniques, the developer was able to:

• Determine the sustainability credentials of the four proposed effluent treatment options which were a critical part of the expansion

• Identify opportunities that would deliver a lower environmental impact by using a wetland and producing “green” construction materials as well
as create enterprise development through a local Foundation established by the operation’s owner

• Identify additional benefits and opportunities not directly relating to the management of effluent



The SD Balance Sheet (see diagram) shows that by implementing the sustainability opportunities there is:

• A reduction in the impact on natural capital through opportunities leading to improved solid waste and land usage and effluent treatment

• An increase in social capital through enterprise development in the construction industry to produce “green” cement

• No added capital or operating costs by replacing reverse osmosis plant with a wetland

By applying the SUSOP framework to assess effluent treatment options for a brown-field expansion, community opposition to riverine effluent disposal was avoided, and enhanced environmental and social initiatives were identified leading to greater stakeholder support for the project.

Winner of the Institution of Chemical Engineers' Sustainable Technology Award 2012


Individually the opportunities appeared attractive, however as a cluster of opportunities that could aid effluent treatment they were a more systematic approach to delivering both a technical solution (treating effluent) and sustainability benefits (reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating local enterprises, developing skills).

Analysis was conducted to estimate the potential impacts of the favourable effluent treatment option with and without the sustainability opportunities across each of the Five Capitals – natural, social, human, manufactured and financial.

The analysis comprised a series of steps:

• Selecting 12 relevant indicators such as water (effluent); enterprise development; onsite jobs; shared infrastructure

• Weighting these indicators in terms of their importance in the project context

• Estimating the benefit or detriment of each indicator on an impact scale from -5 to +5

• Aggregating the impacts for each indicator to give an overall impact for each capital 

Reference: Corder, G. D. and Green, S. R., 2012. ‘Using a Sustainability Assessment Framework to Achieve Enhanced Legacy Outcomes’, Proceedings of Life-of-Mine Conference, 10-12 July 2012, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, pp 311-317.


The SUSOP framework was applied through a series of multi-disciplinary workshops and offline analysis, which included:

• Familiarisation with Sustainability Concepts and Project Context (workshop)

• Goal Scoping and Opportunities and Risks Identification (workshop)

• Analysis of Sustainability Opportunities and Risks

• Prioritisation of Sustainability Opportunities and Risks (workshop)

The workshops were run with key personnel from the project developer and selected personnel from the developer’s engineering company plus members of the
SUSOP collaborators team.


A proposed expansion of a mineral processing operation in South America was at the pre-feasibility stage of development. One of the main concerns for the developer was how to determine which of their proposed effluent treatment options would have the best sustainability outcomes.

The developer adopted the SUSOP framework to conduct an assessment of the effluent treatment options – in the process identifying numerous sustainability opportunities and benefits relating to other parts of the operation.


SUSOP is a threats and opportunities technique that helps incorporate sustainable development principles and objectives into the design and operation of businesses. Somewhat analogous to HAZOP which brought a design methodology to safety, SUSOP brings a design methodology to sustainability. It uses systematic and rigorous steps allowing sustainable development principles to be translated into real operating designs and practices. Importantly, SUSOP does not compromise financial outcomes.

A key feature of the SUSOP framework is that threats and opportunities are recorded in a Sustainability Register, which is similar to a conventional risk register. A sustainability scorecard”, SD Balance Sheet, is used to demonstrate the positive impact across environmental, community and economic measures (the triple bottom line) and assists in business decision-making.