As the drumbeat of sustainability grows louder, South Africa stands at a unique crossroads of daunting challenges and untapped opportunities. The interplay of stark socio-economic inequalities and complex environmental patterns in the country amplifies the need for a sustainable revolution in all spheres of activity, particularly within the corporate playing field.
By Yesh Surjoodeen, MD of HP Southern Africa
South Africa, however, is not an isolated actor on the sustainability stage. The nation is part of an interconnected global team sport, where corporations aren’t just players, but game-changers. These entities have a pivotal role in sculpting the sustainability narrative, not only through their product offerings but also through their operational practices, workforce, and collaborations.
For corporations to successfully embody this transformative role, it is imperative they internalise the reality that sustainability is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but a ‘need-to-have’. A plethora of research highlights that firms embedding ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) components within their strategic framework consistently surpass their industry counterparts across multiple performance indicators such as gross profit, operational efficiency, EBITDA, EBIT, and net earnings. Consequently, sustainable practices serve as key drivers for profitability, resilience, and competitive superiority.
Moreover, South African businesses must champion the shift towards a low-carbon economy. Despite the country’s considerable potential for renewable energy, a mere 7,3% of our energy derives from these cleaner alternatives. By investing in renewable energy solutions, the private sector can accelerate this transition, thereby spawning job creation, spurring innovation, and mitigating emissions.
It’s important to realise that sustainability goes beyond environmental consciousness; it’s also about social impact. Companies too bear the responsibility of addressing economic disparities and promoting social inclusivity. This can be achieved by investing in skill enhancement and generating dignified work opportunities, especially in sectors that resonate with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Promisingly, South African corporations are progressively aligning their operations to this sustainability manifesto.
HP serves as a prime example, making significant strides towards fostering social and economic equality. Initiatives such as HP LIFE provide essential IT and business skills to individuals across South Africa and the continent, nurturing an inclusive digital society. Furthermore, through the Innovation and Digital Education Academy (HP IDEA) programme, a partnership with the Umlambo Foundation, HP is on track to empower 30 000 teachers with digital competencies by the end of the year.
This commitment to sustainability is underscored by HP’s involvement in the Cambridge Partnership for Education’s EdTech Fellowship which addresses connectivity issues, digital content creation, and skill development.
In the face of a rapidly evolving world, sustainability is not a solo endeavour but a collaborative team sport, where every corporation contributes towards a collective goal.
Nurturing this new vision of success requires businesses to transform their strategies, making sustainability and social impact the core pillars of their operations. As corporations pave the way, it becomes evident that profitability and social responsibility can go hand in hand, co-creating a resilient, green, and equitable South Africa.