to leave a positive
Doing well by doing good ‘We all consciously seek ways
CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY is a phrase with many meanings and many forms of expression. It involves organisations taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on all stakeholders, as well as the environment. Corporate sustainability is synonymous with corporate survival.
Surprisingly, that message isn’t getting through to many CEOs. Debbie Meyer, CEO of tourism operator &Beyond, isn’t one of them. “As the world becomes more crowded and people’s lives get faster and fuller, the peace and tranquillity of the natural world become an increasing attraction,” she says. “It is crucial to ensure impacts on natural environments are minimised.”
Meyer was appointed CEO at &Beyond (previously called Conservation Corporation Africa, or CC Africa) in August last year after joining the company as chief financial officer in 2008. &BEYOND owns and operates 46 luxury lodges and camps in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya and India. The company is jointly owned by the Einthovens of Hollard fame and the Getty family, based in Britain.
“We operate a high-yield, low-impact model by creating very small luxury lodges that can support enormous tracts of biodiverse land,” Meyer says.
“Even though &Beyond has under 450 bedrooms, it supports over 2m acres of precious wildlife land, with each lodge championing our philosophy of giving more and taking less. Sustainability at &Beyond is all about creating a company that can show meaningful and lasting benefits for the natural environments that surround its operations. We’re doing well by doing good.
“We’re committed to land, wildlife and people by looking for ways to contribute and give more to those spaces, but also believe it can reduce its impact on natural resources without compromising our guest experience,” she says. “Through positive guest encounters (some of which are people with huge influence and resources) my team and I try to promote a greater consciousness of the responsibilities of managing the wildlife and natural resources, demonstrating they can be conserved on a sustainable basis.”
It was that philosophy that attracted Meyer to the position. While holidaying at one of the lodges with her family, she realised she was ready for a change – potentially a more socially responsible one – and applied for the job.
Meyer joined &Beyond after a 15-year stint at the Tsebo Outsourcing Group (originally, the Fedics Group), the last nine years as its CFO. She was one of the youngest female CFOs of a Top 200 JSE-listed company in 1999 at the age of 34. Before that she was commercial director at Fedics Food Services, financial manager at Fedics Group Purchasing and Drake & Scull and headed various projects within its travel and finance divisions. She also served as company secretary and was a director of subsidiaries Fedics, Drake & Scull and Wiessenhof Coffee Roastery.
Meyer’s fellow board members and colleagues agree she’s brought significant expertise with regard to group and financial strategy and direction, group risk, legal, shareholder interface and overall corporate governance to her role at &Beyond. As a qualified chartered accountant she’s played a leading role in acquisitions, disposals and financial restructuring and has also been called upon to fulfil functions within
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