Environmental justice is a multi-faceted discourse which has distinctive meanings around the world. In South Africa, environmental injustice reflects the legacy of apartheid spatial planning where poor and black South Africans continue to live in polluted neighbourhoods, near coal fired power stations, waste sites, and industrial areas. Climate change has resulted in rising food prices, water shortages, and drought, disproportionately affecting the poor and working class. Development often takes place in an unsustainable and unfair manner in which investors and corporations benefit at the expense of the environment and the communities who live there.
Several public interest legal service organisations are actively working within various economic sectors to change the behaviour of corporations and government to protect both people and the environment. The Centre for Applied Legal Studies has, for example, successfully launched an application compelling government and the Chamber of mines to consult with mining affected communities in the formulation of the Mining Charter. The Centre for Environmental Rights actively coordinates collaboration between government departments to protect biodiversity and promote responsible management of virgin land.