As a competitive advantage
WHILE THERE’S STILL some “soft and fluffy” attached to sustainability within companies that fail to measure it, there’s a handful that have scored by using it as a differentiator. Claus Lippert, MD of Merensky Timber, says being an early adopter of international standards in the sustainability sector has already delivered for them. “That’s put us ahead of the curve when it comes to things such as accreditation,” says Lippert, pointing out that this has helped them secure export contracts to Europe, North America and was opening up opportunities in Asia as well.
Kevin James, MD of Global Carbon Exchange, concurs the advantages are not just being felt by big business. He says major South African retailers have adopted stricter guidelines when it comes to a focus on sustainability and that’s filtering through the supply chain. Smaller companies looking to supply those retail giants are now taking proactive steps to show they’re responsible businesses.
James also notes pressure is now being brought to bear on industrial companies. “Most of them are feeling the pinch in terms of access to scarce resources – which effectively could become a threat to their financial sustainability over time. Over and above the issue of natural resources required to produce their products, most are seeing rising costs and dwindling supply of energy and water as being the two most pressing issues.”
Brigitte Burnett, head of sustainability at Nedbank, agrees there’s pressure on external suppliers to meet their requirements about issues such as water and energy usage. “If their environmental impact is too great, we’ll turn them away [as suppliers],” she says. Nedbank has also been conducting research into the ways its clients can contribute towards specific causes, such as arts and culture, sports, youth and the environmental. It launched its Affinity product range in 2008 and has since donated more than R100m to various causes simply by having its clients use its products or services.
A key challenge Burnett has identified is the lack of viable and sizeable projects within SA that consumers can contribute to – particularly carbon credits, where Nedbank is trying to establish a market leading position. She says South African companies contribute towards projects in India, China and even Kenya but don’t help similar projects closer to home.
Nedbank is trying to establish a market leading position around the carbon credit space
Lack of viable and sizeable projects in SA that consumers can contribute to