An­glo says peo­ple and the planet a pri­or­ity

CityPress - - Business - Gayle Ed­munds busi­ness@city­press.co.za

One of the threads run­ning through this year is the de­sire for re­newal. The need for us, not only as South Africans but, more im­por­tantly, as earth­lings, to find ways to be bet­ter in the world.

While this all might sound a lit­tle woolly, the re­al­ity is that we all have to take some ac­tion to im­prove the world we live in – and we all have to do it to­day, to­mor­row and every day af­ter.

As a step in the pos­i­tive di­rec­tion, this week An­glo Amer­i­can – a global com­pany that em­ploys 98 113 peo­ple, of which 72 000 are in South Africa – launched its sustainable de­vel­op­ment goals (SDGs) ac­count­abil­ity di­a­logue se­ries.

Dur­ing the event, An­glo Amer­i­can an­nounced its global sus­tain­abil­ity pil­lars and how it has dove­tailed th­ese with 12 of the UN’s SDGs and with 10 of the 13 chap­ters in our own Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan.

Andile Sangqu, ex­ec­u­tive head of An­glo Amer­i­can SA, said the UN De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) 2030 pledge to leave no one be­hind is per­sonal to him, hav­ing grown up in ru­ral Eastern Cape. He said the idea be­hind this re­cal­i­bra­tion of the com­pany’s busi­ness strat­egy is to get beyond the lucky few when it comes to who es­capes poverty and thrives.

“We need a frame­work to bring the marginalised into the main­stream.”

He said it was about each and every per­son and what their legacy is.

“What can you per­son­ally be­queath to our chil­dren?”

Though it is easy to talk the talk, Sangqu’s team says the most im­por­tant part of the project will be the an­nual check-in – with this di­a­logue be­ing the first – and demon­stra­ble proof points. Every year the com­pany’s stake­hold­ers will come to­gether to hold An­glo Amer­i­can to ac­count on its global stretch goals, which are de­rived from three pil­lars – trusted cor­po­rate leader, thriving com­mu­ni­ties and healthy en­vi­ron­ment.

Among th­ese stretch goals are some pretty big asks for a min­ing com­pany: car­bon-neu­tral mines, wa­ter­less mines in scare catch­ments, and to cre­ate five jobs out­side of min­ing for every one min­ing job. The com­pany plans to de­liver on th­ese by 2030 – 12 years from now.

Ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change re­port re­leased last month, 12 years is all we have to make changes be­fore the planet is beyond re­pair.

Sure, cor­po­rate trust in global com­pa­nies – and lo­cal ones – couldn’t be lower, with a se­ries of them em­broiled in cor­rup­tion scan­dals that show off their eth­i­cal lead­er­ship vac­uum.

How­ever, Sangqu be­lieves “the past nine years have cre­ated an op­por­tu­nity for us”, adding that hand­ing out blame isn’t the best way to move for­ward. Rather, he says, we should all work to­gether to re­build trust.

He con­cluded: “There is a yearn­ing for this kind of lead­er­ship; to think dif­fer­ently about our prob­lems; for a new mo­men­tum for change.”

Nar­dos Bekele-Thomas, UN res­i­dent co­or­di­na­tor and UNDP res­i­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive in South Africa, who was one of the speak­ers, was clear that while the UN had done a good job of putting checks and bal­ances to mea­sure gov­ern­ments’ progress in terms of the 17 SDGs, they were lack­ing when it came to putting in place mea­sure­ments of in-coun­try com­mit­ments.

She called on govern­ment to make the An­glo Amer­i­can di­a­logue “best prac­tice for the South African pri­vate sec­tor” and praised the com­pany for its “ac­knowl­edg­ment of cor­po­rate ac­count­abil­ity”.

She also chal­lenged “the pri­vate sec­tor to move beyond [cor­po­rate so­cial in­vest­ment]”, and to rather in­no­vate sus­tain­ably.

“Be­com­ing a trusted cor­po­rate is a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity given the re­al­i­ties of South Africa’s po­lit­i­cal econ­omy,” she said, and made ref­er­ence to the im­age of cor­po­rates be­ing “se­verely dented by re­cent gov­er­nance is­sues” and said restor­ing this trust would be “hard work”.

How­ever, she was pos­i­tive about An­glo Amer­i­can’s com­mit­ment to re-engi­neer busi­ness mod­els to “re­spect the rights and dig­nity of peo­ple and the planet”.

Richard Mor­gan, head of govern­ment re­la­tions for An­glo Amer­i­can, dis­cussed how the com­pany would take for­eign direct in­vest­ment beyond just “jobs and tax”, and make it about how com­pa­nies work to­wards the SDGs.

While we are all rightly scep­ti­cal, cor­po­rates that do com­mit to be­ing trans­par­ent and trans­for­ma­tive could play an im­por­tant role in help­ing short-sighted gov­ern­ments make the right choices for the dig­nity of peo­ple and the planet in the long term, and not just rack up jobs and taxes to con­vert into votes for the next elec­tion.

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