The past 50 years have seen a rapid growth of human consumption, population, global trade, and urbanisation, resulting in humanity using more of the Earth’s resources than it can replenish naturally.
Climate change, deforestation, and plastic pollution are among some of the major threats to our planet. Governments alone cannot solve the challenges and therefore we need more collaboration across regional governments, businesses, and communities.
Over 70% of people living in sub-Saharan Africa depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Land is an economic development asset as well as a socio-cultural resource. A significant share of these resources is, however, used unsustainably while others are lost through illegal activities, meaning that the stream of benefits generated from these resources is being reduced over time.
Collectively, the continent has a lot to gain in pulling together and harnessing its vast natural resources to finance the development agenda towards greater prosperity; and it must also ensure that future growth and exploitation of natural resources is results-oriented, climate resilient and sustainable.
To this end, the inaugural Future of Sustainability Summit – held recently – brought together C-suite executives, corporates, business leaders, entrepreneurs, organisations, and industry experts across all sectors, with a common purpose – to take actionable steps towards implementing green, sustainable, and ethically-sound strategies across Africa.
Hosted in partnership with Old Mutual Limited, The Future of Sustainability Summit presented a unique opportunity in the form of a call to action to organisations, businesses and entrepreneurs to accelerate the mobilisation towa0rds a zero-carbon emission, waste-free, fully sustainable, smart continent.
The summit recognised how sustainability issues are having an increasingly dramatic impact on businesses across all sectors, but its key focus was on addressing the shared challenges faced around Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investments and encouraging collaboration around best practices.
Iain Williamson, CEO at Old Mutual Limited, says “The interconnectivity between economic, social and environmental systems, is more evident than it’s ever been. Evidence suggests that a good grounding in financial concepts from an early age can be life-changing.”
Sustainable investing, also called socially responsible investing or ESG investing, is a means of investing in which an investor strongly considers environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors before contributing money and resources to a particular company or venture1.
“The journey towards sustainability is not straightforward and therefore, we need to have a collaborative mindset to turn our collective challenges into opportunities,” adds Williamson.
Sustainable investing is not only helping shape the world by contributing to positive social change, but it’s proven that both individuals and businesses can benefit financially by seeking to make their investments and companies more sustainable.
The importance of a Green Economy
The green economy is people centred. Its purpose is to create genuine, shared prosperity. It focuses on growing wealth that will support wellbeing. This wealth is not merely financial, but includes the full range of human, social, physical and natural capitals2.
A sustainable future starts with education and people. Without education, there is no sustainable future. Businesses, therefore, need to invest in people. The decisions we make today should not only be about today but for future generations too.
According to Matthew Cullinan, Infrastructure Development Executive at the Atlantis (Greentech) Special Economic Zone, there are jobs and skills that are required in the green economy and technology has allowed young people to grow into that industry and make them employable. Not just technical skills are needed, but also hands-on skills such as welding.
During a panel discussion held on the 30 June 2022, Shirley Moroka-Mosia, GM: Health, Safety, Environment and Quality at Engen, noted that “what we may see as green now, may not be the outcome we want”.
Dr Stanley Semelane, Senior Researcher at Windaba, also raised the question, “How do you ensure there is a balance between social economics and climate sustainability in a country with a high unemployment rate?”
Bhongolwethu Sonti, a social impact practitioner passionate about sustainable development and youth economic development and the programme manager at Plug and Play Tech Centre, believes that the youth face under-representation when it comes to decision making. The youth of today realise the need to preserve our environment and that we must act now with new innovations.
Sonti comments, “Investments are not going to the right places. There are far less youth in urban areas than before and therefore the funding is not going to the key segments where youth can make an impact.”
Further to that, Chido Mpemba, Special Envoy on Youth to African Union Chairperson & Cabinet, believes that we need to involve more youth to be part of the decision-making process by becoming more engaged with organisations and corporates.
The lessons that can be learned from The Future of Sustainability Summit is that in order to make any real impact in the ESG space, it must be done in a collaborative manner and that includes involving the youth; consumers and corporates alike also need more education by sharing green messages across all sectors in everything we do and overall, we must adapt a sustainability mindset.