As a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage

Finweek English Edition - - Cover Story -

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

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