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South Africa’s 2016 solar-car race set to kick off on September 24

This year’s biennial eight-day Sasol Solar Challenge will take place from September 24 to October 1. The event will start in Pretoria, move down to Port Elizabeth and wrap up in Cape Town, similar to the 2014 solar challenge. The 2016 event again revolves around maxi-mising and managing the energy created by the solar vehicles. Each of the eight stages is around 260 km long, with the challenge being 2 000 km in total. However, each day, teams must decide how many loops their vehicle can complete in addition to the daily stage, with loops varying in length from 23 km to 74 km. Vehicles may only be charged by the sun during the eight-day event.

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The winner is the team which can complete the most kilometres. The winner of the previous Sasol Solar Challenge, the world champion Nuon Solar Team, from the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, won the 2014 event by travelling more than 4 000 km, says Sasol Solar Challenge manager Annalie van Vuuren. She says 29 international teams have shown interest in competing in the South African event. The 2014 challenge had six international participants. “The international teams appreciate the route’s dynamic change in landscape, which requires strategic thinking and planning.

The routes in other challenges are often straight and through the desert. “We hope to secure the top five in the world’s top ten teams for this year’s event.” Van Vuuren says this year’s line-up will most likely include Nuon; previous Sasol Solar Challenge winner – absent from the 2014 event – Tokai University, from Japan; Near East University, from Cyprus; Anadolu, from Turkey; and Punch Powertrain, from Belgium. Local competitors, which every year up their game, should include the North-West University, Tshwane University of Technology and the University of the Witwatersrand. Entries for the solar challenge close on May 1. Van Vuuren is currently hard at work to secure a shipping sponsor for the event, as this will enable many of the interested international teams to participate in the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge.

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“We have had interest from teams in Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Colombia, Australia, Canada and Chile, to name but a few, but it is expensive for these mostly university teams to ship their vehicles to South Africa.” She adds that the South African challenge has ascended to now rank as one of the top six solar events in the world.

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Sasol outlines dual Southern Africa, North America growth plans

Despite the lower-for-much-longer oil price outlook, integrated chemicals and energy company Sasol is remaining focused on executing growth projects in Southern Africa and North America as part of a dual regional strategy. In presenting 63%-lower earnings attributable to shareholders in the six months to December 31, outgoing Sasol CEO David Constable gave details of Sasol’s expansion in neighbouring Mozambique, where it had obtained Council of Ministers’ approval for a field development plan that would monetise more hydrocarbon resources in support of Southern Africa’s growth objectives. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video). “The Mozambican gas industry is playing an increasingly important role in the regional energy landscape,” Constable said at the company’s latest presentation of financial results, attended by Creamer Media’s Engineering News Online. The production agreement’s $1.4-billion first phase involved an integrated oil, liquefied petroleum gas and gas project next to the company’s existing production agreement area.

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Against that background, R2.7-billion was being invested in the Loop Line 2 natural gas pipeline project to increase the capacity of the Mozambique-to-South Africa gas pipeline to 191-billion cubic feet a year from the second half of this year. In South Africa, beneficial operation was expected at the Shondoni coal project in Mpumalanga in the first half of this year and at the R13.6-billion second-phase Sasolburg wax expansion in the first half of 2017. In the United States, $3.7-billion had been invested to date in the ethane cracker and downstream derivatives complex at Lake Charles, where detailed engineering was advanced and underground civil work was nearing completion. To support the company’s response plan to the lower oil price, the decision had been taken to pace the execution of the cracker project, with the proposed schedule extension expected to optimise field efficiency still further and limit the spend rate. A phased commissioning of the cracker was expected in 2018 and full beneficial operation of the smaller derivatives units in 2019. “By optimising cash flows, we’re managing our gearing and credit rating, ensuring continued balance sheet strength, protecting our dividend policy and driving resilient earnings,” said Constable – who will be succeeded by joint CEOs Bongani Nqwababa and Stephen Cornell on July 1. The dual strategy was designed to augment Sasol’s other business activities in Eurasia, Middle East and the rest of Africa. Overall, the company was going all out to ensure that its balance sheet and earnings remained resilient at an oil price of $30/bl.

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Bursaries offered by SA’s biggest companies

University fees have been under the spotlight since the latter parts of 2015, when students rose up in protest against the restrictive costs to study.

Following weeks of protests in October and November 2015, President Jacob Zuma eventually declared there would be a no fee increase at universities in 2016. To absorb the loss of revenue, government set aside R6.9 billion in additional funding for universities.

However, according to higher education minister, Blade Nzimande, on top of government funding, corporates in South Africa need to foot the bill for higher education, as they will ultimately be absorbing the skilled workforce.

Many companies in South Africa already offer a number of bursaries and scholarship programs, which help students pay for part of or all of the fees needed to study.

Bursaries and scholarship programs are often tied to recruitment, as companies pay for students to develop specific skills they are in need of.

BusinessTech looks at the 10 biggest companies on the JSE (excluding the recently-listed AB Inbev Breweries), to determine what graduate programs they offer.

It’s important to note that the bursaries listed below are not always an annual given – that is, bursaries for many of the fields of study paid for by the companies only open up when the specific skills are needed.

On top of bursaries, South Africa’s biggest companies do also offer apprenticeships and other opportunities.

With bursaries closed for study in 2016, prospective students should apply now (where applicable) for study in 2017.

1. British American Tobacco

British American Tobacco offers bursary options for students that have an undergraduate degree or are in their final year of study in these subjects:

  • Commerce
  • Agricultural Science
  • Food Technology
  • Food Chemistry
  • Natural Science
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Public / International Relations
  • Bcom Law
  • Human Resources

The skills the group is targeting are primarily in (but not limited to) these fields:

  • Information Technology (undergrad and post-grad)
  • Industrial Engineering (undergrad and post-grad)
  • Marketing (post-grad)
  • Accounting (post-grad)

Applications usually close at the end of August each year.

2. SABMiller

SABMiller says that it is committed to helping South Africa develop its skills, and it does so by offering academic bursaries to deserving SA students.

On top of the financial support, the group says its bursars are “afforded the opportunity to learn more about the world of work”.

SABMiller offers bursaries in these areas of study:

  • Brewing
  • Packaging
  • Control and automation
  • Supply chain
  • Marketing

3. Naspers

Naspers says it is committed to developing its own employees as well as extending training outside the group to develop a “talent pipeline”.

“Given the strategic importance of technology and intellectual property to our sustainability in a competitive market, skills development is a priority for Naspers.”

The group has developed the “Naspers Academy” – which develops specific skills needed by the group (in terms of Internet engineering and classified businesses).

Externally, Media24 offers four bursaries for students wanting to complete their postgraduate qualifications in journalism at either Stellenbosch University, NWU, Wits or Rhodes University.

This is a two-year bursary programme – one year of postgraduate study and one year based at Media24.

4. Richemont

Luxury goods group Richemont doesn’t offer any paid bursaries in South Africa, but the international group offers apprenticeships and other training programs as part of its corporate social responsibility.

The group also makes donations to South African universities such as the University of Cape Town, to provide financial aid for students.

5. BHP Billiton

BHP Billiton provides qualified students with exceptional bursaries every year.

The bursaries cover full university fees (including registration), accomodation, meals, text books and pocket money.

To qualify, candidates need high maths and science marks (at least a ‘C’ – or 60-69%).

  • Mining Engineering
  • Extractive Metallurgy
  • Electrical Engineering (Light & Heavy)
  • Mine Surveying
  • Geology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering (Mineral Process)

Qualifying bursary students are required to sign an employment contract with the company for a period equal to the bursary term.

Bursaries close the end of May each year.

6. Steinhoff

Steinhoff does not have any external bursary or scholarship programs, but does make training and development opportunities available to employees “as far as is reasonably practical,” it says.

“The group concentrates training efforts on its existing employees and not on people outside of the group. Learning assistance through bursaries and study loans is offered in divisions with skills shortages.”

7. Glencore

Glencore Xtrata offers bursaries in the mining field, with offers of apprenticeships and recruitment schemes to build necessary job skills.

High English, Maths and Science levels are required to qualify (60-69% and 70-79%, respectively).

The following career paths will be available for study, depending on the need of the company at the time.

  • Mining Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Financial Management (B Com)
  • Geology Discipline

8. Sasol

Sasol has many bursaries available for both under- and post-graduate students.

Sasol Post Graduate Bursaries are awarded for full-time University study in Science and Engineering, at Masters or Ph.D Degree level.

Undergraduate bursaries cover university fees, accommodation, and also gives money for textbooks and spending money.

These are available for the following undergraduate degrees:

  • Engineering (B Eng, BSc Engineering – chemical, mechanical, electrical, civil, industrial, electronic, mining and computers).
  • Science 9BSc: chemistry, geology and metallurgy).
  • Commerce (BCom: accounting)

9. FirstRand

FirstRand offers the Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship, which is for students complete their postgraduate studies abroad in any country and any field.

The program covers a maximum period of two years to the value of R400,000 per year. This is to cover tuition, books, accommodation, meals and other relevant needs.

This scholarship has bursaries available in all fields of study, as long as it’s at any internationally-recognized university in any other country outside of South Africa.

Candidates have to return home to South Africa, work and stay in South Africa for a minimum period of five years after completing their studies.

Applications open from the beginning of January each year and close the end of February.

10. MTN

MTN offers a number of external bursaries to help boost and develop skills, especially for those coming from a previously disadvantaged background.

The MTN graduate program also looks to fill the openings within the company.

The company offers numerous bursaries across many fields, such as:

  • Human resources
  • Accounting
  • Computer science
  • Marketing
  • Technology
  • Computer engineering
  • and many others

The group specifies that while its bursaries are open to all, candidates from previously disadvantaged backgrounds will get preference.

Source: businesstech


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Changing the way business is done: A critical review of two South African integrated reports

By: Carol Adams

The potential of integrated reporting to drive changes in the way business does business lies in its focus on long- term strategic planning, the multiple capital concept and its potential to change how we define value. A focus on short-term financial value is increasingly being seen as bad for business, let alone society and our natural resources.

Changing the way business leaders and their investors think is a prerequisite for real change towards social, environmental and economic sustainability. A focus on the longer term and thinking about value in non-monetary terms, means thinking about people, relationships, know- how and the natural environment and how they create value, rather than just what they cost or how we impact on them. And a reading of the best South African integrated reports reveals a concerted effort to think about the business differently.

It is pleasing to see reports which highlight key non-financial performance indicators, along with financial indicators right up front. For example, in Sasol’s case these include environment, safety and equity measures and, in the case of greenhouse gas emissions (only) a quantified long-term (2020) target. It is also exciting to see reports which talk about values and goals in broad terms and analyse the context in which the business is operating, its risks, including reputation risk, and opportunities.

Some of the reports available, such as Sasol’s 2013 annual integrated report, attempt to follow the IIRC’s consultation draft, but they all predate the recently released International <IR> Framework (IIRC, 2013 and Adams 2013). Yet they provide many learnings for companies new to integrated reporting.

Sasol explicitly acknowledges the link between values and behaviour:

“Our shared values define what we stand for as an organisation and inform our actions and our behaviour. They determine the way in which we interpret and respond to business opportunities and challenges.”
-Sasol Annual Integrated Report 2013 p7

So what behaviours is Sasol aiming to nurture? A focus on people, relationships and long term value for those connected with the company: “To grow profitably, sustainably and inclusively, while delivering value to stakeholders through technology and the talent of our people in the energy and chemical markets in Southern Africa and worldwide…our common goal To make Sasol a great company that delivers long-term value to its shareholders and employees; a company that has a positive association for all stakeholders”. -Sasol Annual Integrated Report 2013 p6

‘Sustainably’ in this case might mean both “environmental sustainability and longevity: “We also remain acutely aware of the environmental impact of extending our operations to 2050. We are working on initiatives to mitigate greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as well as on those related to air quality and water stewardship.” -Sasol Annual Integrated Report 2013 p27.

Social and environmental issues feature prominently in ‘top issues impacting our business’ (page 30), but neither here, nor in ‘Looking towards 2050’(page 27) is there any mention of the carbon bubble. Should there be? Well, it has been getting quite a lot of attention, it may impact on value to investors (and employees and stakeholders) and integrated reporting requires identification of material issues and discussion of the context in which a company is operating including risks and opportunities. So, yes, I think there should be a discussion on the likelihood of a carbon bubble impacting on future value.

Sasol appears to see the fight as being with regulators. “Risk of climate change and related policies impacting Sasol’s operations growth strategy and earnings” is identified as a regulatory risk (page 47) with possible regulatory interventions identified as carbon taxes, product carbon labelling, carbon budgets and carbon-related border tax adjustments linked to bilateral agreements.Sasol discusses efforts to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, but also notes it is engaging in “co-ordinated regulatory intervention”(page 47). In the context of its concern about the cost of such interventions, this would appear to mean trying to stop them, a move unlikely to be in the interests of protecting natural capital.

The report has been ranked highly (see EY, 2013) and indeed, I did get the feeling that there had been some considerable ‘integrated thinking’, demonstrated by the discussion on value, strategy and the business model. But I was left wondering if all the reported activity around reducing carbon emissions was an attempt to hide the elephant in the room (the carbon bubble) and delay regulation. Of course, I should not be surprised by this (see Adams, 2004 and Adams and Whelan, 2009), but I am disappointed to see integrated reporting used in this way.

On the positive side, Sasol has identified how each stakeholder contributes to value creation (pages 38-9) along with more commonly provided information on how they engage with each stakeholder group, what their expectations are etc. The process of determining materiality set out at the front of the report involved consulting stakeholders amongst other steps.

The Standard Bank Group (SBG) does not suffer the same perception that the nature of its business is fundamentally unsustainable, as some would have of Sasol, but banks come up against scrutiny with regard to the nature of the projects they fund, and they are generally mistrusted by many. Demonstrating a contribution to creating value for the societies they depend on and diligence with regard to the environmental impacts of the projects they fund is therefore critical for their long term success. The Standard Bank Group appears to do this better than many. The real proof of course comes in information about the nature of loans made.

The reader of SBG’s annual integrated report is left with the feeling that the bank sees its success as inextricably linked with its relationship to society. For example, socioeconomic development and provision of sustainable and responsible financial services are identified as material issues.

“The bank aims to embed sustainability thinking into its business processes there are a number of determinants of materiality, including the bank’s values and accountability and responsibility for sustainable development rests with the board” -SBG’s annual integrated report p 46.

The report includes a value added statement (page 49), information on stakeholder engagement processes and explains its approach to environmental and social risk screening. Sustainability risk is explicitly mentioned alongside other operational risks (page 90).

Another strength of the SBG report is its disclosure on remuneration of it executives. Some are not so bold. One of the Guiding Principles of the International <IR> Framework is ‘conciseness’.

At around 130 (Sasol) and 180 (SBG) pages, neither report examined here can be said to fulfil that, but they contain information including financial and governance information which goes beyond the Framework’s content elements.

Source: The Sustainability and Integrated Reporting Handbook


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