Meeting ESG demands in a challenging landscape

Meeting ESG demands in a challenging landscape

South Africa’s challenging landscape can make life difficult for local companies. As World Wide Industrial and Systems Engineers (WWISE) explains, however, standardisation is proving key to their resilience.

Our country is a complex landscape for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) requirements. Water scarcity, energy shortages, and carbon emissions heighten environmental concerns, while South Africa’s social challenges, including labour strikes, income inequality, and racial disparities, are well documented.

From an administrative perspective, political instability and corruption continue to overshadow the nation’s efforts for renewal in the wake of state capture. Nevertheless, South African companies strive to navigate these multifaceted ESG issues.

What many have come to realise is that effective ESG requires clearly defined objectives that are met through strategic planning and implementation. These objective also need to be able to withstand South Africa’s myriad challenges.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) comprises standards bodies from more than 160 countries, and the standards it sets out are aiding local businesses significantly in this process.

Simone Samuel, senior ISO consultant and project manager at WWISE, explains that the standardisation of ISO 14001:2015, for example, plays a pivotal role in addressing ESG challenges by providing a systematic framework for environmental management within organisations.

“This internationally recognised standard sets out clear guidelines for establishing and implementing effective environmental management systems, helping businesses to better understand, manage, and reduce their environmental impacts,” she points out.

“It also promotes sustainability, responsible resource management, and regulatory compliance,” Samuel continues. “Furthermore, by emphasising continuous improvement and stakeholder engagement, it aids in fostering a culture of transparency and accountability.”

Karina Govender, ISO consultant at WWISE, points out that this standard also plays a crucial role in saving companies precious time, as it streamlines and simplifies the process of complying with ESG requirements. Improved operational efficiency in terms of ESG reporting, audits, and compliance will also save on money and resources, she says.

“It encourages organisations to adopt sustainable practices, reduce waste and energy consumption, and address resource inefficiencies. This leads to cost savings through improved resource management and streamlined processes,” Govender expands. “Additionally, ISO 14001 enhances regulatory compliance, reducing the risk of fines and legal actions, not to mention that it bolsters a company’s reputation. The result is that more eco-conscious customers and partners come on board to boost sales and profitability.”

According to Samuel, the onus is on top management to establish the system, as this commitment ensures the allocation of resources and support. Organisations must also conduct a comprehensive environmental review to identify aspects and impacts of their operations.

“Once identified, clear objectives and targets for environmental performance must be set, focusing on reducing negative impacts and improving sustainability. Employee training and engagement are essential to ensure that everyone understands and contributes to the system’s success,” she continues.

Samuel adds that there needs to be continuous monitoring and measurement of environmental performance, along with regular audits. Effective communication with stakeholders, including customers and regulators, is vital for transparency and building trust.

The cost of implementing ISO 14001:2015 can vary significantly depending on the size and complexity of a business and its existing environmental management practices. However, it should be considered an investment that will yield many benefits and returns. This process can take from several months to a few years, and successful certification usually depends on careful planning and continuous improvement efforts.

The effectiveness of an implemented ISO 14001:2015 system is measured in several ways, notes Govender. “Businesses begin by conducting regular internal audits to assess conformance with environmental management standards. Key performance indicators (KPIs) or objectives are established to track metrics such as reduced energy consumption, waste reduction, and improved recycling rates,” she says. “Additionally, management reviews and stakeholder feedback provide valuable insights. External third-party audits and certification help validate the system’s effectiveness and ensure conformity. Continuous improvement is a fundamental element, with corrective and preventive actions taken when necessary.”

Published by

SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
Prev Can mines achieve sustainability?
Next Pumped-up pipe quality

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.