Sustainability reporting: Why SA companies must up their game

RESEARCH shows that South African companies are neglecting the more challenging aspects of sustainability reporting, say academics Miemie Struwig and Heidi Janse Van Rensburg, writing for The Conversation:

Sustainability reporting combines economic performance with social responsibility and environmental care. It aims to help businesses set goals. It also measures performance and manages change towards sustainability.

Many governments and stock exchanges require businesses to provide some level of sustainability reporting. This has become important because of growing social and environmental injustices, high-profile corporate scandals and the global financial crisis.

Sustainability reporting is important because poor disclosure can lead to a decline in investments for a country. Establishing a suitable sustainability reporting framework is therefore important.

South Africa is one of only a few emerging-market economies showing a significant increase in sustainability reporting. It is also the only one in Africa. Companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange have to integrate sustainability reporting with financial reporting. If they don’t they have to explain why they’re not complying.

But more needs to be done if sustainability reporting is to maintain its integrity and value. It needs to be critically assessed against international standards.

We did research on the reporting of 100 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. We found that the use of standards and indicators was low in the real estate and consumer services industries. Other industries fared better. Companies with international status showed a stronger tendency to use international standards. They used local requirements to a lesser extent.

Based on the results we developed a framework that companies can use to improve their sustainability reporting. The results are expected to be published soon.

Plethora of standards and indicators

There are various sustainability reporting standards and indicators. There are 17 reporting standards internationally. In addition, there are 10 categories over and above the Global Reporting Initiative’s general standard disclosure and indicators. South Africa has 12 initiatives. These are made up of mandatory requirements, voluntary guidance and initiatives put in place by the government, the local stock exchange and market regulators.

These 12 initiatives include:

– legislation such as the Black Economic Empowerment Act and the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act;

– voluntary guidance. This is covered by the King Code and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s Social Responsibility Investment Index; and

– other initiatives such as state-owned enterprise shareholder compacts.

Some international standards focus on policy. There are others that focus on management and others on reporting standards. The key ones include:

– the United Nations Global Compact and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines;

– the International Labour Organisation and United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights; and

– the Global Reporting Initiative.

The Global Reporting Initiative gives guidance on what and how to report. There are no binding requirements. It is meant to be used as a reporting standard alongside others.

The initiative groups indicators along the following lines:

-general standard disclosure. This includes governance, stakeholder engagement and ethics;

– economic, environmental and societal indicators; and

– interlinked issues that address tensions between the three pillars of traditional triple bottom line reporting. This covers planet, people and prosperity.

New framework

Our framework used the South African initiatives. We incorporated these with the international standards and the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines. We also included 10 categories of integrated indicators. These aim to address tensions between the three pillars of the traditional triple bottom line approach. An integrated approach provides a more coherent picture of business sustainability.

Based on this framework our analysis of South Africa’s top 100 listed companies showed that they were using:

– Eleven of the 12 South African requirements and initiatives. The state-owned enterprise shareholder compact was the only local initiative not used.

– Fourteen of the 17 international standards. The companies weren’t using the Core Labour Standard, Social Accountability 8000 standard and the Fair Labour Association standard.

– Only three integrated indicators.

Overall, our research showed that South African companies generally aren’t using the integrated indicators. Rather, their focus is on the triple bottom line concept. This means that the more challenging aspects of sustainability are neglected.

South African companies should move from adopting low-level compliance and conformance indicators to using more complex integrated indicators. In other words, they need to move from weak sustainability to strong sustainability.

Our proposed framework can provide business managers with a guide to comprehensive reporting on sustainability performance. It can also help strengthen a business’s commitment to sustainability.The Conversation

Miemie Struwig, Professor, Department of Business Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and Heidi Janse Van Rensburg, Senior Lecturer, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

Source: fin24

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Power group Bursaries, Internships and Learnerships

As one of South Africa’s largest privately-owned construction companies, with a 30% staff ownership, the Power Group is geared to contribute towards South Africa’s vision of employment, black economic empowerment and housing. The company employs up to three generations of staff – which is a confirmation of our “People First” culture which promotes respect, recognition, just reward and an encouraging hand.

University Students

Power Group offer students who wish or are currently studying at University, bursary opportunities in the following fields:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Construction Management
  • Quantity Surveying
  • Project management
  • Business Commerce

Applications are accepted all year.

If you have not received correspondence regarding your application within 30 days, please consider your application as unsuccessful.

Click here to apply for a bursary

University of Technology Students

Power Group offer students who wish or are currently studying at a University of Technology, bursary opportunities in the following fields:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Building Science
  • Quantity Surveying
  • Construction Management

Applications are accepted all year.

If you have not received correspondence regarding your application within 30 days, please consider your application as unsuccessful.

Click here to apply for a bursary

Vacation Work

Vacation work with the Power Group provides an ideal opportunity for University students to readily apply what they have learned in theory to a real-world scenario. By working alongside experienced employees in a supportive and challenging environment, you can enhance the practical application of the knowledge and skills you acquire during your tertiary education.

Applications are only accepted from:

  • March – April
  • September – October

If you have not received correspondence regarding your application within 30 days, please consider your application as unsuccessful.

Please note: Vacation work opportunities are only afforded to University students.

Click here to apply for a vacation work

Experiential/In-Service Training

All in-service and experiential training applications must be made through your local cooperative offices/placement offices at your educational institutions. No applications made directly to the Power Group will be considered.

Learnerships give you the opportunity to work while you are studying towards a nationally recognised qualification. At the Power Group we offer learnerships in the following fields to students who have obtained a minimum of 60% for Maths and Science:

  • Construction Road Works (NQF3)
  • Construction Survey (NQF4)
  • Construction Supervision (NQF4)
  • Construction Management (NQF5)

Please note that there is an order in which learnerships must be completed. Once we receive your application will we be able to determine which learnership you qualify for.

Applications are only accepted from:

  • March – May
  • October – December

If you have not received correspondence on your application within 30 days, please consider your application as unsuccessful.

Click here to apply for a learnership

Source: freerecruit

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Recycling needs to become a part of SA culture

Sappi‘s well-known waste paper bins have a brand new ‘purpose’. They are used as collection points all over Newcastle, in KwaZulu-Natal, where people can donate their unwanted shoes to the local Rotary Club’s ‘Sole Struck Shoe Project’.
The waste paper bins were recently handed over to the Newcastle Majuba Rotary Club by Holland-born Nel Vuyk, owner of Waste Salvage – a local waste paper agent of Sappi’s ReFibre waste management division. Vuyk and her family moved to South Africa 17 years ago to take over the Newcastle-based recycling business. It was a perfect fit for Vuyk, because she grew up within a recycling culture.

“That is what’s missing in South Africa,” she says. “In Holland, due to the lack of space, recycling is a necessity. We can’t do without it. I remember how we used to go to the recycling depot as kids to trade in our newspapers for cash. We grew up being recycling-conscious.”

It’s not the same in South Africa. “Here space isn’t an issue, so people simply dig a hole and that becomes their new dumping site.” Vuyk’s company collects 100 tons of recyclable cardboard and 10 tonnes each of plastic and paper every month – an indication that Newcastlers are keen on recycling. But South Africans in general still have a long way to go.

“It’s all about making a conscious choice to create less waste and dispose of recyclable waste in the right way. If every person, in every household can commit to this, we will soon have a cleaner society – and save on resources,” says Vuyk.

Recycled material is an excellent fibre resource for the manufacturing of new products. The cardboard waste from Sappi’s network of agents re-enters the manufacturing cycle to produce containerboard for the packaging industry. Sappi Cape Kraft Mill in the Western Cape, for example, uses 100% recycled fibre in its production of linerboard and fluting medium. The mill uses approximately 67,000 tons of waste paper a year. Sappi‘s Enstra Mill in Gauteng also uses recycled paper in the making of linerboard, while the Tugela (KwaZulu-Natal) and Ngodwana Mills (Mpumalanga) use a percentage of paper waste in its production processes.

With over 20% market share in the local recycling industry, Sappi is also doing its bit for job creation and economic empowerment. The company has helped over 80% of its 70 agents to set up and sustain their businesses by supplying the necessary equipment and know-how. Many of these entrepreneurs, like Vuyk’s Waste Salvage, have been in operation for over a decade. Collectively, these agents supply Sappi with 275,000 tons of recyclable cardboard a year.

But much more waste could re-enter the production chain across a number of industries, including paper, glass, plastic, aluminium, ink and toner cartridges and computer consumables. All it takes is consumers who are passionate about recycling.

Source: Bizcommunity