Capacity – or human capital – development, as defined by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is “the process through which individuals, organisations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain their capability to set and achieve their development objectives over time.”
Human Capital Development (HCD) in the sustainability space thus focuses on addressing the obstacles that inhibit people and organisations from realizing their developmental goals, and on adapting their training methods to ensure long-term mindset shifts. One area in which this is taking place on a global scale is in the area of industrial development. Concepts such as resource (in particular energy and water) efficiency and cleaner production methods require a whole new skill set, and in developing nations these skills are even more critical to the ultimate goal.
Global cleaner production alliance
The UN’s Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and Environment Programme (UNEP) have established 47 national cleaner production centres (NCPCs) in developing economies over the past 20 years. The NCPCs foster industrial development where economic growth and increased standard of living include reduced resource use, pollution, waste and impact on nature and communities via resource efficiency and cleaner production (RECP) programmes.
Local sustainability resource for industry
South Africa, the National Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa (NCPC-SA) is funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and hosted by the CSIR to oversee industrial sustainability in key manufacturing sectors. Focused on energy, water and materials efficiency, and waste management, the NCPC-SA advises industry on resource efficient business practices, offering support through in-plant assessments and training.
The NCPC-SA’s sector-focus approach is aligned to government’s Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP), to ensure industry competitiveness, economic growth and job creation for SA industry. The nine industry sectors currently spotlighted are: agro-processing; automotives; chemicals, plastics fabrication, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals; clothing, textiles, footwear and leather; pulp and paper; metals fabrication, capital goods and transport equipment; green industries and waste management; tourism and hospitality; and mining (Industrial Energy Efficiency / IEE Project only).
Local impact – global networking
The NCPC-SA is a member of UNIDO and UNEP’s global resource efficiency and cleaner production network (RECPnet) and plays a leading role in the African Roundtable for Sustainable Consumption and Production (ARSCP), with the NCPC-SA Director currently president of the African body.
Due to the energy crisis and ever-rising costs of energy both locally and globally, the NCPC-SA is a stalwart supporter of SA industry’s ability to manage its energy consumption.
In partnership with UNIDO, the NCPC-SA promotes and implements Energy Management Systems (EnMS) and Energy Systems Optimization (ESO) through the Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement Project in South Africa (IEE Project).
Participating companies are equipped with skills to improve energy performance and offered opportunities to showcase their successes.
Developing young sustainability leaders for national industrial impact
The NCPC-SA is actively developing and transferring the skills required to build up the country’s capacity, so as to ensure more sustainable, greener industries. The availability of suitably skilled manpower is critical to the sustainability of RECP initiatives in industry.
Four young project managers from the NCPC-SA recently completed international HCD training with colleagues from fellow developing-nation NCPCs in Colombia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and Viet Nam.
The 6-month e-learning course in ‘Capacity Development for Promoting a Resource Efficient and Environment- oriented Private Sector’ was run by German development agency GIZ for RECPnet. Via interactive online group sessions and follow-up assignments, the team honed their strategy development, communication and marketing, project acquisition (fundraising, proposal writing), process and project management, as well as soft skills.
The four young change agents – Faith Mkhacwa, Thembi Kodisang, Lee-Hendor Ruiters and Pearl Thusi, all project managers at the NCPC-SA – found eye-opening value in their exposure to global experts and counterparts from other nations, offering a deeper understanding of the national and global significance of their daily toils.
The HCD project sets out to strengthen the capabilities of these NCPCs to improve on institutionally and financially sustainable, demand-driven services to SMEs and to enhance their professional exchange and learning in the North-South and South-South knowledge exchange via RECPnet.
The highlight of the programme was a recent trip to Germany, where the four were exposed to the learnings and expertise of the other participating NCPCs in a week-long feedback workshop.
Reuben Kadalie, NCPC-SA Operations Manager, mentored the four young managers. “Sustainability is a long-term journey and NCPC-SA has an important role to play in equipping South African industry in that space.
I am excited about the leaders that are being developed within the NCPC-SA and how their professional exchange and networks have been enhanced,” he said.
Manufacturers (particularly those in the key sectors serviced by the NCPC-SA) can email firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire about an RECP assessment, hosting an NCPC-SA intern or resource and energy efficiency training.
“Information-sharing with other NCPC’s in this course gave us a better understanding of where there’s room for innovation and other value-adding services we can offer
to South African industry, without compro- mising the quality of our current offerings. NCPC-SA is not just about RECP and Industrial Energy Efficiency. Rather, it has the ability to become South Africa’s environ- mental hub and has the right team, with the expertise to become just that.
While we grow, we are taking a strategic approach in order to ensure sustainable success. I have learned that it will take more than the NCPC-SA management team for positive change and growth to take place – each staff member plays a critical role and needs to be well-equipped to utilise our technical and soft skills.
People cannot be fully equipped to grow with an organisation without being empowered to align their thinking with the organisation’s vision and strategy, no matter how many masters or doctoral degrees they have obtained. Qualifications alone are not sufficient to develop individuals for future developments within the RECP space, but HCD will certainly assist the team to learn and apply new ideas, competencies, skills and attitudes.” – Faith Mkhacwa, HCD course participant
“Although participating centres are from different parts of the world with varied business models, underlying challenges remain the same. A clear understanding of each centre’s goals and objectives in the long, medium and short terms is critical for its success. Service offerings need to be constantly strengthened and diversified to service industries stepping into greening and resource efficiency.
The face-to-face workshop in Germany promoted interaction amongst participants, and we could exchange best practices and information on projects, resulting in the request that an exchange programme be set up amongst NCPC’s, to promote further collaboration. My overall impression from the course is that, despite the successes and challenges that NCPC’s face, it is always important to articulate transparently and plan properly our goals and objectives to ensure that investors, clients and the organisation can work together towards the success of the organisation.” -Lee-Hendor Ruiters, HCD course participant