Tighten the ESG focus or face litigation

By Merlita Kennedy & Tobia Serongoane from Webber Wentzel

Litigation on Environmental, Social and Governance matters is rising in volume, both globally and domestically, but there are various steps that companies can take to mitigate the risks

Investor and social pressure on mining and energy companies to report on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and consider renewable energy is immense. Recently, the South African state-owned power utility, Eskom, was named by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), as the world’s biggest emitter of the pollutant sulphur dioxide (SO2). Eskom on its own now emits more sulphur dioxide than China, the US, and the European Union’s power sectors combined.

According to the study by air pollution expert Mike Holland, these emissions contribute to high levels of ambient air pollution and to 2 200 air pollution-related deaths in South Africa every year. Most of these deaths are due to SO₂ emissions, which form deadly PM2.5 particles once released into the air.

The study poses a legal threat to the power utility, as climate change litigation is gaining momentum in South Africa, particularly in relation to air pollution.

Environmental, Social and Governance

ESG has risen to the top of the board agenda. Companies are increasingly aware that a failure to address these matters can be detrimental to the company’s business purpose, reputation, corporate values, approach to risk management, and relationships with host communities, investors, suppliers, customers, employees, and other stakeholders. As ESG continues to grow in importance, the number of ESG litigation matters will become self-perpetuating.

Companies and state-owned power utilities globally are employing ESG policies and procedures in the energy sector. Eskom, however, has lagged in this regard.

Litigation Risks

The consequences of falling behind can be severe and far‑reaching, for example by falling foul of climate‑change litigation (i.e. class actions). There is an increasing focus on whether a company is conducting its operations in a sustainable way, and without violating any human rights. In some cases, internationally and locally, both the state and a company were taken to task for not acting appropriately to improve air quality and thus the health and well-being of citizens.

Sharma and others v. Minister for the Environment – Australia

On 8 September 2020, eight young people filed a putative class action in Australia’s Federal Court to block a coal project. The lawsuit sought an injunction to stop the Australian Government from approving an extension of the Whitehaven Vickery coal mine. The court found that a novel duty of care is owed by the Minister for the Environment to Australian children who might suffer potential “catastrophic harm” from the climate change implications of approving the extension to the Vickery coal mine in New South Wales. Ultimately, the court ordered the Minister to pay costs.

Milieudefensie et al. v. Royal Dutch Shell plc – Netherlands

The environmental group Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands and co-plaintiffs filed a case against Royal Dutch Shell plc. (RDS) requesting the court to rule that the Shell group’s annual CO2 emissions and RDS’s failure to reduce them constituted unlawful acts toward the claimants; and order RDS to reduce, by end-2030, the Shell group’s CO2 emissions by 45% net, relative to 2019 levels.

In this ground-breaking decision, RDS was compelled to reduce its global group carbon emissions by 45% net (compared with its 2019 emissions) by 2030, with immediate effect.

In South Africa

In June 2019, the VEJMA and groundWork, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights, launched landmark litigation against the state, asking the court to declare that the poor ambient air quality in the Highveld was a violation of Section 24 of the Constitution. On 17 May 2021, the Pretoria High Court for the first-time heard arguments in what has become known as the “Deadly Air” case: a case about the toxic air pollution on the Mpumalanga Highveld.

Mitigating the risks of ESG litigation

To manage and mitigate some of the risks of ESG litigation – the key is to be proactive and to:

  • involve legal counsel at an early stage to ensure ESG compliance with reporting and disclosure requirements;
  • conduct due diligence and environmental legal compliance with the suite of environmental laws;
  • point out possible exposure to liability under a changing environmental regulatory landscape;
  • audit the suite of contracts individually and ensure that they contain indemnification and other contractual terms to protect against the impact of environmental liabilities;
  • in the event of a breach, involve legal counsel to assist with crisis management;
  • undertake a feasibility study to see whether corporate structures and operations have the necessary resources and expertise to handle any ESG matters that may arise.
  • engage effectively with stakeholders, including regulators, investors, employees, consumers and communities; and
  • move beyond treating ESG as a tick-the-box exercise to ensuring robust governance and accountability at board level and integrating material ESG factors into strategic decision-making.

Also, any company should seek specialist legal advice before responding to any ESG litigation issues that they may face.

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Transition to low-carbon economy urgent – President Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the country must urgently reduce its carbon and greenhouse gas emissions or risk experiencing negative social and economic consequences.

The President was addressing the nation through his weekly newsletter.

Carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are a product of the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, which contribute to global warming and changes in the Earth’s climate patterns (climate change). President Ramaphosa said the impact of climate change is already felt in some South Africans’ quality of life through drought and flooding.

“Several communities in Mpumalanga, for example, are affected by high levels of pollution, which increases respiratory illness and other diseases. Those who are dependent on the ocean for a living have already seen depleted fish stocks amid changing weather patterns and changes in ocean temperature,” he said.

The President warned that if the country continues its carbon-intensive production methods, the economy will bear some risks.

“As our trading partners pursue the goal of net-zero carbon emissions, they are likely to increase restrictions on the import of goods produced using carbon-intensive energy. Because so much of our industry depends on coal-generated electricity, we are likely to find that the products we export to various countries face trade barriers. In addition, consumers in those countries may be less willing to buy our products.

“The other economic risk is that investors will shy away from investing in fossil fuel-powered industries. Banks and financial institutions are already facing pressures from their shareholders not to finance enterprises that depend on fossil fuels to produce their products or services,” President Ramaphosa said.

A just power transition 

President Ramaphosa acknowledged that although the low-carbon economy transition is a necessary one, it needs to be “just” because some sectors will be negatively impacted. “There are several important sectors of our economy that will be negatively affected by such a transition, including agriculture, tourism, mining, energy, transport, manufacturing and the biodiversity economy.

“That is why a transition…must address the needs of workers in these industries and in affected communities. The process of transition needs to be based on the full involvement of organised labour and business in targeted programmes of reskilling and upskilling, creating employment and providing other forms of support to ensure workers are the major beneficiaries of our shift to a greener future,” he said.

Transforming communities and electricity sector

President Ramaphosa said government is already developing plans on a transition towards a low-carbon economy, starting with the electricity sector which, according to the President, contributes to 41% of the country’s emissions.

“It will be the quickest industry to decarbonise and will have a beneficial impact across the economy. We will be decommissioning and repurposing coal-fired power stations, and investing in new low-carbon generation capacity, such as renewables.

“We will also pursue ‘green’ industrialisation, such as manufacturing using green technology and a shift to the production of electric vehicles,” the President said.

In line with this, President Ramaphosa announced that the State power utility will transform a coal-fired power station into a renewable power production plant.

“Eskom will be undertaking a pilot project at its Komati power station, which is due to shut down its last coal-fired unit next year, to produce power through renewable energy. Komati will serve as a good example of how this shift from coal dependency could be achieved,” he said.

The President said in Mpumalanga’s mining towns, government is working with different sectors in pursuance of moving towards less dependence on coal, assessing its impact and making sure that “communities are protected against the risks and benefit from the opportunities presented by this transition”.

“There are economic challenges and risks. There are huge economic opportunities that we must seize. South Africa is endowed with abundant resources that can be harnessed to open up new frontiers of investment and growth and build a new economy in areas like green hydrogen. By pursuing these opportunities, we can ensure that our just transition yields new innovative opportunities that will create new jobs.”

Cooperation is key 

The President said in order for the country to meet its target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, developed nations will be required to keep promises made to financially support energy transitions in countries like South Africa.

In this regard, government is working with international partners to secure a financing facility for the decarbonisation effort.

“This is not about charity. It is about fairness and mutual benefit. Countries with developed economies carry the greatest responsibility for climate change as they have historically been the biggest polluters, while developing economies are the worst affected. That is why wealthier countries have an obligation to provide significant financial support for developing economies to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions,” President Ramaphosa said.

South Africans too, are required to commit to the transition to a low carbon-emitting economy.

“The climate transition is something that affects every South African and we all need to be part of its design and implementation. We have undertaken widespread consultation and there is broad support among social partners for an ambitious, realistic and, most importantly, just transition.

“We have to act now if we are to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth, secure the health and well-being of our people and safeguard the future of our planet,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za

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Cintocare Hospital: a benchmark in sustainable healthcare facilities

Zutari’s environmentally-sustainable design consultancy essential for Green Star rating first

Leading consulting engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Zutari provided design and construction supervision of the mechanical services, as well as environmentally-sustainable design (ESD) consulting, at the new Cintocare Hospital in Menlyn Maine, Pretoria. It is the first Green Star South Africa Custom Healthcare certified hospital in South Africa and on the African continent. “The brief from developer Growthpoint was that Cintocare must set a new benchmark for sustainable design, construction and operation of a healthcare facility,” comments Yovka Raytcheva-Schaap, Associate, ESD Consulting & Project Management.

In a collaborative effort between Growthpoint, A3 Architects and the professional team, a design was conceived that expresses the purpose of the building as a modern, hi-tech medical-care facility with sustainability features that are artistically and seamlessly integrated. Examples include the high-performance double-glazed façade, water-efficient greenery in and outside the building, high-efficiency LED lighting, extensive glazing connecting to the outdoor environment and ample natural daylight. All of these elements contribute to the positive experience of the staff, patients and visitors, notes Raytcheva-Schaap.

The medical requirements were directed by a highly-specialised team of surgeons, medical staff and technical managers from Cintocare, supported by national and international regulations and guidelines, as well as best practice. Interestingly, the hospital was never intended to have an emergency department, but rather to create a healthcare facility that would allow leading-edge procedures using the latest technology.

Commenting on the importance of Zutari’s ESD consultancy on this project, Raytcheva-Schaap explains that the main aim of healthcare facilities is patient treatment and recovery, which places a high demand on resources when compared to other buildings. “As responsible citizens, we recognise the major challenges of our times, some of which relate to public healthcare and climate change.”

The development of this facility was carefully considered along these lines. Decisions related to sustainability and occupant well-being were made intrinsically in response to these major challenges. While the unobstructed large window areas provide excellent views, these also increased the radiant heat load and glare. High-performance glazing was modelled in advance so that the most ideal glazing and screening could be selected.

Water is essential for the operation of a building of such nature. However, design interventions were introduced to optimise water use as much as possible. These include a 60 m3 storage tank for rain-harvested water used for toilet flushing and car washing, as well as water-efficient fittings in all staff, patient and public ablutions.

Any building requires shafts for vertical reticulation of services. However, this type of building, with its multitude of integrated critical services, including medical gas, machine data and hot water reticulation, called for 3D design and coordination in order to optimise the space utilisation in shafts.

Raytcheva-Schaap concludes: “This was a groundbreaking work for the entire project team. Hospitals and their associated building services are more complex in comparison to commercial buildings. There are life-critical systems that cannot be compromised. Given that, we had to plan and design carefully to achieve the necessary energy and water performance to meet the rating goals. It was a steep learning curve for the entire team. However, the project has been hugely rewarding and sets a sustainability standard for other healthcare facilities to follow.

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Shedding the light on Eskom and its mountain of debt

Eskom released its FY20/21 financial results on 31 August 2021. These were characterised by the persistent strain on the liquidity and profitability position, high gross finance costs and some challenges to operational efficiency.

By Sithembiso Garane, Head of Listed Credit @ Futuregrowth

The group incurred a loss after tax of R18.9 billion, a slight uptick from the previous year’s loss of R20.7 billion. The audit opinion was qualified owing to irregular expenditure and going concern risk.

The government injected R56 billion to assist in reducing the debt burden.

Eskom current debt maturities were reduced to R44.9 billion from R128 billion in FY20. The group’s cash generation capacity has continued to deteriorate since its five-year peak in FY17 at R47.4 billion and is currently sitting at R30 billion.

The prevailing theme remains Eskom’s unsustainable debt, despite the recent equity injection and reduction in capital expenditure. Operating expense increases offset the revenue surge. Primary energy cost pressure and the inability to contain employee costs continue to pose a significant challenge in the utility expenditure reduction programme.

The energy availability factor decreased from 66.64% to 64.19%, largely attributed to increased maintenance. During the year, two Kusile power stations were added to the grid, contributing 1 500MW, and Medupi’s final unit was handed over to Eskom in July 2021.

Investigations into the recent Kusile explosion are ongoing, with the damage estimated at R2 billion. Eskom expects to incur an additional R38.4 billion in environmental project costs on Medupi, as part of its loan conditions with the World Bank.

Financial highlights FY20/21

  1. Revenue was up 2.38% year-on-year, solely owing to the 8.76% tariff increase. Sales volumes significantly declined by 6.7% (from 205 635 GWh to 191 852 GWh) off the back of the Covid-19-induced slump in demand across all customer categories. Management noted that sales volumes are expected to rebound in FY21/22, albeit not to pre-Covid levels. Revenue is expected to be aided by 15.06% tariff increase in the medium term.
  2. Interest bearing debt (IBD) reduced from R483 billion to R401 billion, assisted by the R56 billion equity injection from the government. The reduction in the capital expenditure programme over the reported period also contributed to the net redemption of debt. Finance costs remained very high, despite the slight decrease from R48 billion to R45 billion. As a result, the effective cost of debt spiked from 9.58% to 9.66%. This remains a concern for the issuer, as it seeks to extricate itself from this debt overhang.
  3. Primary energy costs continued to rise in spite of the lower demand: 3.4% year on year, due to a combination of coal and import cost escalation, higher utilisation of open cycle gas turbine (OCGT) and renewable energy independent power producers (IPPs). The IPPs contributed 24.0% in total primary energy costs and accounted for 6.0% of energy generation. The growth in contribution was stunted by the force majeure on wind energy procurement during the hard lockdown. Coal contribution, which currently accounts for 85% of energy generation (and 65% of the cost base), is expected to decrease as Eskom rolls out its decarbonisation strategy.
  4. Eskom’s average employee cost decreased from R775 000 to R735 000 as a result of the slight reduction of headcount from 44 000 to 42 000 and a management salary freeze. This is expected to be dampened by the 7% wage increase settlement over the next three years. Employee costs remain the Achilles heel for the counterparty as it grapples with its cost base. A 42 000 headcount is still a far cry from the 35 000 optimal level as noted by management. The total employee cost accounts for 16.35% of Eskom’s revenue.
  5. Municipal debt arrears increased by 26% year-on-year from R28.0 billion to R35.3 billion (including interest accrued over time). This figure was R6 billion in FY16 and is escalating very fast. Efforts to address collections from the top 20 defaulting municipalities continue to be questionable. Eskom has entered into a payment agreement with 12 of the 20 defaulting municipalities in an effort to increase recovery; however, 10 of the 12 are yet to comply with the agreement.
  6. The utility remains completely reliant on its R350 billion government guarantee programme to raise debt in the market. Currently, the guarantee headroom is R47 billion, inclusive of the R32 billion committed drawdown. The expected debt service costs for FY22 are R71 billion (FY21 103 billion), R31 billion of which are finance costs. Eskom generated R30 billion from operations, hardly covering its net finance costs (R33 billion in FY21). The total funding requirement for FY22 is R39 billion which can be fully absorbed by the guarantee headroom.
  7. Eskom recorded a net loss for the year of R18.9 billion and R37.2 billion in irregular
    expenditure, which is the main driver for its audit qualification. The reduction in debt does give some reprieve on debt service costs; however, the entity’s failure to generate sufficient cash from operations remains a significant risk.

Eskom expects to fully unbundle the transmission division by December 2021, followed by the generation and distribution divisions in December 2022. This is subject to all regulatory and legislative compliance.

It is our view that management may be somewhat overly optimistic with these timelines, given potential political impediments.

Futuregrowth

The functional separation of the three entities is said to be complete, and plans are afoot to create legal entities that will be operated independently. Some efficiencies may be unlocked through this exercise, but this will not address the core problem of debt spiraling out of control.

The majority (60%) of Eskom’s employee costs come from distribution and shared services – a low-margin division and a cost centre. Other high operating expenses from the generation division are due to the provision for the decommissioning costs of coal generation and are not expected to remain at current levels in the medium term. The third-party generated energy (IPPs and imports) forms part of the transmission division cost base.

Management now has to grapple with the IBD split amounting to R416 billion (as at FY20) across the entities, which requires bondholder consultation and approval. Our expectation is that this will not be a swift process. Further details are yet to be revealed, including how the R350 billion guarantee will be segregated, and business cases for each division so that investors can assess each division’s investability.

More importantly, all these interventions do not address Eskom’s core problem: the debt trap. The utility’s management has alluded that more government assistance to the tune of R200 billion will still be needed. It is our view that, regardless of the divisionalisation and liberalisation of the energy sector, a debt solution is still required. Failing this, the debt problem will be inherited by all or some of the soon-to-be established entities.

Some encouragement but concerns remain

Futuregrowth is encouraged by Eskom’s accelerated execution of its long-communicated divisionalisation strategy and government’s equity injection. However, these interventions are barely scratching the surface when it comes to extinguishing Eskom’s solvency risk. The remaining operational inefficiencies and unsustainable debt burden patently require further extra-ordinary support. We are cautiously optimistic that a decisive debt solution will be found, and we are of the view that comprehensive divisional business cases will determine the success (and/or duration) of the debt separation process.

Government’s recent intervention does indicate that Eskom remains important to the state and that the likelihood of government support is still high. However, these intermittent interventions do not solve the going concern risk status of Eskom, and its high dependency on the shareholder. Eskom needs more than just unbundling to address its solvency and liquidity risk.

Published on www.futuregrowth.co.za/insights.

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Still hesitant to take the vaccine?

Our world often seems less understandable now to the non-scientist than ever before. At the same time, our senses and minds are flooded with rumours from friends and family, real-time news reports, social media postings, various videos apparently clarifying matters, and almost all the information generated by humankind available at our fingertips. Message from the National Science and Technology Forum Executive Director

No one can take in and digest so much information, even if you try to read and watch everything available on one specific topic. Making decisions about what to believe and what not becomes close to impossible. Information on Covid-19 has been posted, published and recorded, shared, retweeted and forwarded for about a year and a half now, and is accessible to all, regardless of where the information comes from. Every person reads a tiny sample of what is available, and the saying becomes true: ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’1. Fake news and misguided advice are so prominent that one cannot ignore it.

I am sometimes as overwhelmed as everyone else, but I do think it helps to know what is really scientific, and what information claims to be scientific but isn’t. It helps to know which sources and news distributors are more trustworthy than others. Ask yourself: Where did this information come from? The most reliable information comes from science, in the form of talks and articles by experts who have published books and peer-reviewed articles, who have studied and have a PhD in a field related to the coronavirus pandemic. In other words, experts who have done the research and each have a large body of knowledge that they have acquired through years of study and reading. The scientific NSTF member organisations are good sources. See the list and websites here: Current NSTF Members | NSTF Awards.

Vaccine hesitancy

Vaccine hesitancy might come from not having enough knowledge, mistrusting scientific knowledge resources, and fear of the vaccines. There seems to be huge suspicion of big pharmaceutical companies. There are fears that the vaccines being manufactured will lead to horrific results – like mass murder, or that something like a computer chip will be inserted during vaccination, which will allow ‘them’ to control the masses of vaccinated people. So far, these fears have been demonstrated to be unfounded.

More than 4.54 billion doses of Covid vaccine have been injected across the world, 30.4% of the world population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 15.8% is fully vaccinated. See Coronavirus (Covid-19) Vaccinations – Statistics and Research – Our World in Data.

It would not benefit the pharmaceutical companies if the vaccines killed people. Companies care about their reputations. Without having a good reputation they cannot do good business. I have gleaned some answers to the ongoing questions about Covid-19 and the vaccines from some reputable sources, and hope that they may clarify, rather than complicate matters further. Here I summarise the answers from only two reliable sources.

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) is a reliable source (and an NSTF member). The members (or fellows) of the Academy are top scholars whose knowledge, insights and advice are worth reading and listening to. Another good resource is a recent article in the Daily Maverick newspaper published online on 26 July 2021: Everything you need to know about vaccines — our only viable strategy for living with Covid-19.

Again, the article is reliable because of the authors who wrote it: Lucy Allais, Shabir Madhi, Imraan Valodia, Alex van den Heever, Martin Veller and Francois Venter. (You will see what I mean if you look at the end of the article for a brief introduction to each author.) The article gives a good overview of the latest expert advice on Covid and the vaccines. Below I summarise and quote mainly from this article and refer to it as the ‘DM article’.

How do vaccines work? Are they safe?

The DM article describes vaccines as causing ‘a kind of fake infection’: “Vaccinations are a way of triggering the body to develop an immune response to a particular disease without having to actually get the disease — a kind of fake first infection.“ ASSAf explains: “Vaccines work by presenting the immune system with a readily identifiable part of a pathogen, which the immune system remembers so that it can quickly respond should it encounter that same pathogen in the future.”

In other words, the immune systems of our bodies have ‘memory’. They can fight pathogens (viruses and bacteria, e.g.) because they have fought them before. They recognise which types of cells are intruders in the body and should be attacked. Covid vaccines contain a part of the coronavirus. The immune system fights the virus parts in the vaccine, which is not difficult in this case, because the virus parts cannot multiply like the real complete virus. The immune system can then identify viruses that have the same features as the virus parts in the vaccine, and so destroy them.

This is the principle on which all vaccines work. Even the annual ‘flu shot’ works on this principle. Every year there are new strains of the flu virus, which the body might not recognise as harmful. The flu vaccine prepares the body to recognise new harmful viruses that are slightly different from the old ones with which the immune response is familiar.

The Covid-19 virus is a new (or novel) virus for humanity. For our bodies’ immune systems the Covid virus is a new unfamiliar virus, so it can ‘sneak’ into a body without being detected by the body’s defences. ASSAf says: “The advent of vaccines ranks among the most important developments in medical and veterinary science of the last three hundred years.” Vaccines have ended the spread of many deadly diseases, even to the extent of eradicating some of them completely from societies across the world.

“Vaccines are one of the most successful, and safest, interventions medicine has ever come up with. They have eradicated dangerous infectious diseases such as smallpox, have controlled polio, and have saved billions of lives from measles, tetanus, pneumonia, hepatitis and diarrhoea. They have dramatically decreased viruses responsible for some cancers. They are also safe — bad side effects are very rare and the risk of developing severe illnesses is much smaller than the bad effects of the diseases the vaccines prevent.”

Can the Covid vaccines change the DNA of our bodies?

No, they cannot change our DNA. Our DNA is contained in the nucleus of every cell in our bodies. (The nucleus is like the heart of every cell.) The virus DNA cannot get to our own DNA, which is safely inside the nucleus. The virus replicates (makes copies of itself) without needing our DNA. The virus destroys cells but does not need to penetrate the nucleus. The material in the Covid vaccines also doesn’t go into the nucleus of any cell.

The DM article explains: “The most recent mRNA [or messenger RNA] technology, which is used in some of the latest vaccines, uses genetic material that tells our bodies to produce a protein of the virus which then stimulates the immune response.”

In other words, mRNA vaccines contain some genetic material of the virus (not the whole virus, only pieces of its DNA). When the vaccines are injected into our bodies, this genetic material causes virus proteins to be made. Of course, the proteins are exactly like that of the Covid virus. The immune system is triggered and attacks it.

What is the difference between the Pfizer vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

The vaccines being used in South Africa at the moment are made by Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson (J&J). The DM article says that they are both excellent choices. “Don’t stress about which one is best — the best one is the first one you can get.” The J&J vaccine is taken as a single shot; the Pfizer vaccine as two doses, at least three weeks apart. Other vaccines are being studied and tested. These vaccines work in different ways. Pfizer is an mRNA vaccine and works like explained above. mRNA vaccines are easier to make and can be manufactured very quickly. It does not need live viruses to manufacture them, so it is much safer to make them.

It is difficult at this moment to compare how well the two vaccines work. They both work very well, even preventing the dangerous variants from seriously affecting people. The exact comparisons between the two will become obvious in time. Currently, they were tested on different groups of people at different places, and there are other differences too. To compare the vaccines scientifically, the tests and trials will have to be done in exactly the same circumstances.

What can go wrong?

The vaccines take time to work. It is only when two weeks have passed since taking the vaccine, that it starts to work. For Pfizer, immunity only kicks in two weeks after the first jab, and the second jab is only successful two weeks after that second dose. “Do not assume you have enhanced immunity straight after getting your jab. Continue to take precautions. Mask when indoors with people and always open windows in rooms and vehicles.” – DM article. People can catch the infection and get ill during the two weeks after getting the vaccine. They can also be infected just before getting the vaccine and become ill because the vaccine doesn’t work immediately.

People can also get ill when they are fully vaccinated, but the symptoms will pass. It is very unlikely that you will need to go to hospital, and very unlikely that you will die. It seems that most of the Covid patients who are currently filling the hospitals are those who are unvaccinated. “Severe allergic reactions are very rare, but can occur after any vaccination” – DM article.

If an allergic reaction happens, the health care worker can treat the reaction. It is highly unlikely that you will die as a result of the allergic reaction. Very rarely inflammation of the heart can happen, but it normally goes away quickly. The J&J vaccine has a very rare effect of blood clotting, and can be serious; but Covid causes clots more often than the vaccine. “…the benefits far outweigh the risks.” “Recently, the J&J vaccine has been associated with a very rare syndrome causing weakness, called the Guillain Barre Syndrome. This syndrome is also seen in patients who have had the flu and other viruses, and is treatable.”

To summarise: It is highly unlikely that you will have bad effects from the vaccines. You might have flu symptoms but they will pass quickly. Any unusual side effects (like those mentioned above) can be treated. You will not die from the vaccines.

How were the vaccines developed so quickly and should this worry me about their safety?

Coronaviruses are not new and vaccines are not new. Vaccines have been widely used for at least one hundred years. Their design and manufacturing processes are well established. The companies and industries already existed and are huge and efficient. The common cold is often caused by one of the coronaviruses. Because coronaviruses and vaccines are well understood, it was possible to develop the vaccines so quickly.

When Covis-19 started spreading across the world, it was obvious that this was an emergency situation and the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it a pandemic. Then large amounts of funding were made available by many countries’ governments and by private industry. This is very unusual.

Normally drug development takes years, but in this case, there was an intense and concentrated effort across the world, with one goal in mind – to design and produce effective vaccines to stop the pandemic. Because various institutions, companies and countries were racing to do so and competing with each other, the vaccines were produced in record time.

The vaccines have been made by well-qualified people in well-resourced environments. They have been thoroughly tested in many trials. Now billions of people across the world have been vaccinated and the vaccines have proved themselves to be safe and effective.

Herd immunity

The scientists hoped that if enough people can be vaccinated, a point would be reached where the spread of the virus is under control. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to vaccinate enough people fast enough – both in our country and across the world. The virus has mutated many times, and a variety of harmful variants have emerged. Despite the incredible speed of producing the vaccines and even the fast roll-out of vaccination of populations, it is still not fast enough to stay ahead of the virus’s mutations.

New variants like Delta are able to spread even faster than the first version of the virus. New variants also seem to be resistant to the immunity people get from being ill with Covid. There are also those that are emerging that are more resistant to vaccines.

The authors of the DM article say: “It is unlikely that herd immunity will be achieved with this virus any time soon, and it will probably circulate, mutate, and recirculate throughout our lifetime, reinfecting us several times, like all the other coronaviruses”. It is likely that everyone with any contact with other human beings will get the virus. If you get ill, the severity of the illness depends on whether you are vaccinated or not.

Practical advice

Get vaccinated as soon as you are able to. Not only will you save yourself, but you will probably save others’ lives too. “Even though it is possible to get Covid mildly once fully vaccinated, we now know that fully vaccinated people are less
likely to spread the virus.“ When you get ill with Covid you should wait for 2-3 months before getting vaccinated. Rather get vaccinated before you get ill.

What should you do to prevent getting the virus?

“Covid is an indoor respiratory virus: it is spread in the air, and it collects indoors where windows are closed. You are unlikely to get it outside, and opening windows in rooms, cars, taxis, and buses makes everyone much safer.“ It seems that keeping surfaces clean is still a good idea but perhaps less important than avoiding interaction indoors or in unventilated spaces. Masks are still very important for preventing transmission from one person to another.

Why is there so much information and everyone says something different?

We live in the age of the internet and social media. Both of these are somewhat recent developments, since only about 20 years ago. Society has not learned to make rules and agreements around the use of these. So it is left to each individual to be responsible. However, for most people, it is too much effort to google the information and ideas that are being spread through social media.

People often lack the ability to judge whether the information is reliable. Instead, they share and forward the information unthinkingly, because it is interesting, or sensational, and assumed to be true. Truth is also not always a consideration. Apparently, bad news travels faster than good news. It used to be a good thing that people pass on bad news to warn others – but not if the bad news is false. Humankind is basically not adapted to social media, to ensure that it is used for good and not for gossip. The modern ‘grapevine’ works too fast for us to handle.

In conclusion: take-home points

  • Vaccines will give you near-complete protection against severe illness and dying from Covid.
  • Vaccines are safe. All vaccines used in the vaccination programme in South Africa have undergone extensive trials and have been proven to be effective and safe.
  • The risk of serious side effects is similar to the chance of being struck by lightning, and side effects are treatable and generally go away on their own.
  • It takes time for vaccines to start working well — usually about two weeks, and their working steadily improves after this.
  • Vaccines differ in how well they protect against infection and mild Covid. Most vaccines will require at least two doses and provide good protection against severe illness from Covid two weeks after your first shot. Until you are fully vaccinated you should continue to take the same precautions as if you are unvaccinated.

The opinions expressed above are those of the Executive Director, Jansie Niehaus, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Executive Committee or members of the NSTF.

1. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ can be found as far back as 1774. There are earlier versions of this expression, and the idea might have originated in 1698. See The phrase ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ – meaning and origin. (phrases.org.uk).
2. More than 36 million people have been vaccinated in the United Kingdom and 150 million people in the United States are now fully vaccinated. Hardly anyone (a tiny number of people) has died as a result of the vaccines, and usually it is not clear at all whether the vaccines were the direct cause of death.

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Ninety One becomes first SA asset manager to sign onto Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative

Ninety One is proud to become the first South African signatory to the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative, which supports institutional investing aligned with the global goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.

This commitment underlines Ninety One’s support for the objectives of the Paris Agreement and global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C and aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The assets represented by the Initiative comprise almost half of the entire asset management sector globally in terms of total funds managed. A total of 128 investors including the world’s three largest asset managers – collectively managing $43 trillion in assets – are now part of the initiative.

Signatory asset managers commit to prioritise the achievement of real economy emissions reductions, take account of material portfolio Scope 3 emissions (resulting from activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organisation), create investment products aligned with net-zero emissions and facilitate increased investment in climate solutions.

Beyond this, it is fitting that Ninety One is the first South African signatory because of its unique position to make the case not merely for a transition to cleaner forms of energy, but a just transition that takes into account the unique socio-economic challenges South Africa faces as it works to de-carbonise the economy.

Hendrik du Toit, CEO of Ninety One, said: “Ninety One believes in sustainability with substance. The world needs an inclusive transition plan that works for all its 7.9 billion people. Therefore, a drive to net zero that excludes, intentionally or otherwise, any place or enterprise could result in no net zero at all. So, to us, the mission to reduce carbon must include the entire world. In particular, the carbon-intensive emerging market economies need time, encouragement and resources to adjust. Ninety One, as a company with its roots firmly in South Africa, understands this need perhaps better than most. Emerging economies, after all, are not responsible for the bulk of emissions to date.”

In its drive to achieve low-emission investment portfolios, Ninety One’s intention is to do more than lower ‘portfolio carbon’ by simply constructing portfolios that exclude high-emitting countries and companies. Instead, Ninety One seeks to differentiate between the reduction of ‘portfolio carbon’ and the reduction of carbon emissions across the real economy.

Currently, companies are incentivised to divest their carbon-heavy assets to report declining carbon intensity, while countries are encouraged to ‘offshore’ their carbon emissions to other countries without adjusting domestic consumption patterns. By automatically applying an exclusionary process to achieve net-zero targets, a key consequence for investors is likely to be the creation of portfolios concentrated in developed markets and asset-light industries. This process disregards the requisite transition focus on those industries and economies that remain.

A narrow focus on lowering ‘reported carbon intensity’ is likely to suck capital out of the developing world. This could deny large parts of the world the capital required to build a cleaner, greener economy that would benefit everyone. And it would deny developed-market investors access to the economic dynamism of emerging markets and the potential opportunity to benefit from returns. 

Du Toit says that Ninety One believes in active engagement and encouragement towards a transition. “As a recent paper from Imperial College noted, ‘Not all firms can go green, but they can all get engaged in transition.’ Instead of risking a disorderly exit from carbon-intensive economies, sectors or companies by isolating these investments, we will – where we can exert influence and create impact – actively allocate investment to companies and countries that can be encouraged to deliver on transition plans and, importantly, show the will to do so.”

“Ultimately, the drive to net zero is about the reduction over time of all the world’s carbon, not merely of ‘reported’ carbon, and true success is about bringing every country and sector along on the same journey.”

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SA gas startup Bluedrop Energy plans dual IPO on NYSE and JSE

Bluedrop Energy, a South African Gas startup company, this week announced its plans to list its shares on the NYSE in New York, USA and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, South Africa. Bluedrop will first float its shares on the NYSE in 2022, while its JSE listing will follow at a date still to be announced.

In April this year, Bluedrop announced that it has secured a $20 million (R300 million) funding from J. Sassoon Group, a US, Washington DC-based private equity and investment firm for the construction of Bluedrop’s modern state of the art Smart Composite LPG Cylinder manufacturing plant. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) of the US has also issued a letter of interest providing $36m (R497m) finance guarantee in support of J Sassoon Group for this project.

Last month, J. Sassoon Group signed a Technical Services Agreement (TSA) with the South African office of a US-based multinational engineering firm, Fluor Corporation, for the development of Bluedrop’s smart composite LPG cylinder manufacturing plant.

Commenting on the listing, J. Sassoon Group Chairman, Mr. David Sassoon said: “We are pleased to continue to advise Bluedrop on its next step in its journey. The South African market is in desperate need of foreign capital infusion and this potential floating of Bluedrop’s shares in New York is going to help Bluedrop grow exponentially through asset acquisitions making it one of the leading LPG wholesalers and composite LPG cylinder manufacturers in Africa.

Unfortunately, there has been a drought of investments in South Africa’s capital market, forcing startups like Bluedrop to seek funding from foreign markets. These are opportunities that should be available for local entrepreneurs and investors, but these opportunities end up being transferred to markets like New York and London.

Government has to re-energise local markets, it needs to offer incentives to local investors to unleash local capital, which will encourage foreign investors to invest in South Africa and reduce risk exposure to foreign investors. Otherwise, local capital will continue to flow to foreign markets, which makes firms such as ours have incentives to co-invest with local partners. Co-investment goes beyond just capital, co-investing with local partners allows for the creation of an intellectual highway of ideas, and unlocks more opportunities, all of which fosters cooperation and helps local economies grow exponentially.”

Sassoon added, “We are in the process of negotiations to secure bulk offtakes for Bluedrop from LPG Suppliers in the US to complement and fulfill critical aspects of Bluedrop’s value chain and strategy. The US is a major producer of LPG therefore in J. Sassoon, Bluedrop has the right partners to help them source product from a market spoilt with abundance of this critical energy source.”

J. Sassoon expects to help raise up to $100 million (R1,4 billion) in private placement funding for Bluedrop’s second round of funding for its pre-IPO campaign before its shares float on the NYSE. J. Sassoon Group is advising Bluedrop on its planned initial public offering in collaboration and consultation with its U.S. based industry partners and a local broker-dealer firm in South Africa.

Kenneth Maduna, CEO, Bluedrop Energy

Bluedrop’s CEO, Mr. Kenneth Maduna remarked, “The listing on the stock market will elevate our profile within the energy sector and investment community. It will surely expand our investor base. It is a value accretive step in the growth of Bluedrop as a relatively new entrant in the energy markets and it fits in perfectly with our acquisitive growth strategy. We have a very good launch project and it gives us leverage to build an impressive asset base within this high growth market of LPG in South Africa and the SADC region. We are also humbled by the outpouring of support from the South African government and various sector entities. It gives us great confidence in our business to know that our government and our partners share our vision of LPG being at the critical nerve-center of the country’s energy future.”

Mr. Bruce Fein, J. Sassoon Group CEO, commented, “Bluedrop is a Cinderella story that is still in the making for South Africa’s markets. We remain committed to our agreement with Bluedrop and its success. This is the time for South Africa to shine and grow.”

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Solving SA’s energy crisis: the role of industry collaboration and innovation

Companies across South Africa have stepped up their corporate innovation capabilities forward, in line with government’s call to find urgent solutions to the country’s energy crisis.

Some of the clear-cut solutions available to South Africa lie in the conversion of waste and refuse into energy; property portfolios committing to green, energy-efficient buildings; land-use sustainability and reduced plastic in the packaging in the production of food, as some key examples.

Creating a circular economy

For its part, the government is committed to redirecting waste from landfills and in support of this, new laws have been legislated and regulations are being rolled out, all aimed at cleaning up South Africa and reducing the negative environmental as well as the health impacts caused by waste.

Overviewing innovations in the waste-to-energy space, Kate Stubbs, Marketing Director at Interwaste explains the many unutilised opportunities for alternative energy creation – the easiest lying in our ability to reuse and repurpose mounting waste to help with the much-needed energy supply. “Many businesses are already moving towards a zero waste to landfill target and examining ways in which they can effectively repurpose through the development of some of the most advanced technology to ensure waste-to-energy can be realised.”

Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) was pioneered by Interwaste locally. “We have been successful in taking a solid fuel source, which is recovered through the shredding and bailing of certain pre-sorted dry industrial non-recyclable waste – and creating a fuel source that is similar to A-grade coal. This represents a strong alternative to fossil fuel use. This alternative fuel can be used within sole/co-feeding plants and even replace conventional fuels such as coal in production plants for power, steam and heat generation or any other suitable combustion installations,” says Stubbs.

She explains that the Circular Economy model offers opportunities to deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth, combining job opportunities with positive environmental practices. “By stripping out all unnecessary waste materials, reducing the consumption of energy and raw materials and allowing these materials, energy, and resources to be ‘fed’ back into the cycle, I believe there is an opportunity here for companies to optimise their own waste streams for use in other industries.”

Property space has a critical role to play

Property owners can do much to reduce energy consumption. With a focus on minimising its environmental footprint, Liberty Two Degrees (L2D), a precinct focused, retail-centred REIT, has done exactly that and has obtained certification by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) on its entire retail portfolio.

“The retail property sector plays a considerable role in reducing carbon footprint, combating plastic waste, and more importantly saving energy in the process through its support of the circular economy model,” says Jonathan Sinden, Chief Operations Officer of L2D. “Our focus is placed on ensuring that buildings’ ongoing operations and management are resource-efficient and environmentally responsible, with long-term sustainability goals embedded in day-to-day operational policies and plans.”

L2D has a commitment to achieving its sustainability targets of net zero waste this year (2021), net zero water by 2025 and net zero energy by 2030, and has made substantial inroads notwithstanding the pandemic, as demonstrated by its Green Star Existing Building Performance (EBP) ratings on all buildings.

Beyond property, the logistics and supply chain industry is a critical area for greener innovation.

Fully aligned with addressing the energy crisis is the journey by KFC South Africa to eliminate non-recoverable or non-reusable plastic-based packaging by 2025.

Siya Ngcukana, Chief Supply Chain Officer at KFC Africa says that the brand is fully conscious of its impact on the environment and remains committed to ensuring that all-natural resources are managed responsibly throughout the end-to-end supply chain. Our recent switch from plastic straws and stirrers to paper straws and wooden stirrers, resulted in a reduction of approximately 70 tons of non-degradable plastic annually – about 65-million straws and 4-million stirrers.

“Together with supply partners in our distribution, we are exploring converting used cooking oil from our restaurants into bio-diesel to enable partial fuel replacement. This would reduce our demand for normal diesel and the associated carbon footprint.”

“The industry is focused on the next generation of supply chains resulting from opportunities presented by new energy-efficient technologies and heightened customer requirements.”

“A key supply chain innovation in which the QSR industry can further reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions is by being Proudly South African – where majority of suppliers they make use of are local businesses. This can have a beneficial impact on energy consumption and transport-derived carbon emissions. To this end, a large portion of our consumer facing packaging portfolio makes use of a local recycled board, which is key in our sustainability efforts,” adds Ngcukana.

As technology and innovation increases, many more opportunities will undoubtedly be unlocked to combat the energy challenges faced in South Africa.

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High-Level Panel report [review of regulations: wild animals]

Minister Barbara Creecy: Release of High-Level Panel report reviewing policies and regulations on hunting, trade, captive keeping, management and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinos

2 May 2021
 
I have today, 2 May 2021, released the report of the High-Level Panel that was appointed to review policies, regulatory measures, practices and policy positions that are related to hunting, trade, captive keeping, management and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.
 
The appointment of the Panel through the hosting in August 2018, of a Colloquium on Captive Lion Breeding by the then Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs. This was attended by a range of national and international organisations who gave evidence to the Committee. According to the report of the Portfolio Committee, which was later adopted by Parliament, there was a predominant view that the captive lion breeding industry did not contribute to conservation and was doing damage to South Africa’s conservation and tourism reputation.
 
The Portfolio Committee, therefore, requested the department, as a matter of urgency, to initiate a policy and legislative review with a view to putting an end to this practice. Given that there were a number of other burning issues related to other iconic species such as rhino (escalating poaching, rhino horn trade), elephant (ivory trade), and leopard (threats such as illegal offtake of damage-causing leopards, poorly managed trophy hunting, trade-in leopard skin for religious and traditional use) the department decided to include these in the terms of reference of the Panel in order to get a holistic view of the pertinent issues.
 
I established the High Level Panel on 10 October 2019, in terms of S.3A of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 (NEMA). The Panel was chaired by Pamela Yako and comprised 25 members from a range of backgrounds and areas of expertise.

Despite the obstacles placed in the way of the Panel’s work by the Covid 19 pandemic, it has gone about its task in a thorough and professional manner, and was able to put in place a comprehensive program of stakeholder consultations, during which all interested parties were given an opportunity to make written submissions and to present their case to the Panel.

The Panel even managed to conduct a series of face-to-face consultations in between the first and second waves of Covid-19 in 5 provinces with the leadership of those communities living adjacent to protected areas which carry the iconic species under consideration. It concluded its work on 15 December last year, and submitted a report of almost 600 pages to me a few days later. The report was subsequently presented in Cabinet and approved for release and implementation.
 
I wish to thank the Panel for the work that it has done in producing a comprehensive and credible report with a set of recommendations which address the difficult issues facing the sector.
 
I am greatly impressed by the depth of work undertaken, and the level of detail presented in the report. It contains a comprehensive situation analysis; a review of the extensive work of previous panels and processes; and it addresses a number of contextual issues necessary to advance coherence in policy, legislation, regulation and its implementation across spheres of government and management authorities.
 
Throughout the report, the focus is on  providing policy certainty and reducing bureaucracy and red tape. Perhaps most admirable that the panel recognised that resolution of the issues required a bigger-picture framing, a re-imagining if you will.
 
It is in this context that the Panel envisages “Secured, restored, and rewilded natural landscapes with thriving populations of elephant, lion, rhino, and leopard, as indicators for a vibrant, responsible, inclusive, transformed, and sustainable wildlife sector”.
 
This vision is aligned with the Strategic Plan 2024 of the Department, and the Impact Statement within that Strategy: “A prosperous and equitable society living in harmony with our natural resources”. Besides providing specific interventions to resolve key issues in the sector, the report also provides for a re-conceptualised wildlife sector, that will provide a new deal for people and wildlife in South Africa.  
 
The report contains a clear vision, with 18 goals and 60 recommendations. I must say it is remarkable that a group of people with different views on the management of these iconic species was able to achieve consensus on all recommendations, except those recommendations that deal with captive lion and rhino breeding. In terms of captive lion and captive rhino breeding, where there were majority and minority recommendations, and having applied my mind, we will be adopting the majority recommendations on these issues.
 
In adopting the report’s recommendations, it is important to indicate what the key outcomes for the country will include:

  • The development of a shared vision for the sector;
  • Improved policy and legislative coherence, which will provide certainty and a stable base for growth and development;
  • Better balancing our economic, social, cultural and natural heritage needs, including re-imagining the role of protected areas, both state and others, in contributing to ecologically sustainable rural development;
  • Placing communities living with wildlife at the centre of our thinking so we focus on enhancing human-wildlife co-existence, and transformative approaches to access and benefit sharing for communities living on the edges of protected areas;
  • A renewed focus on transforming the ownership and management of the commercial wildlife economy particularly in the eco-toursim and authentic hunting sectors;
  • The ending of certain inhumane and irresponsible practices that greatly harm the reputation of South Africa and the position of South Africa as a leader in conservation; and finally,
  • Contributing to ensuring Africa’s coherence and unity in relation to conservation; sustainable use and management of these species;
     

We will be taking forward the recommendations to develop a Policy on Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable use and adopt a One Welfare approach for wildlife.
 
There are key recommendations to reposition and organise protected areas, simplify and make more effective legislative and administrative processes, as well as to improve cooperative governance. The Department will initiate processes to resolve these.
 
Transformation of the sector will be prioritised, in terms of improved inclusion of marginalised groups, especially communities living with or adjacent to these species, and in the role and influence of traditional leaders and healers in the wildlife sector.  
 
In terms of captive rhino, the Panel makes clear recommendations as to how partnership with private owners of rhino can lead to strong conservation outcomes for the species, while enhancing potential benefit streams. We have accepted that the country adopt the recommended positions on ivory and rhino horn trade, such that we will not be making proposals to CITES for further trade in these derivatives until certain conditions have been met.

On the rhino, these are based on the Commission of Enquiry’s report Option 3 as approved by Cabinet and the Rhino Action Plan and the development of a global consensus for legal international trade in rhino in the interest of rhino conservation.  As South Africa protects the largest component of the global rhino population, we intend to play a global leadership role in this.  For elephants,  although we hold a relatively small portion of the population, South Africa wants to play a key role to bring African consensus on ivory trade in the interest of ivory trade on elephants.
 
We will be initiating a participatory process, with recognition of the important role and contribution by private owners, including some major ecotourism-based rhino populations, to rhino conservation, to find win-win solutions to safeguard rhino conservation and broaden and deepen the bio-economy associated with rhino.


 
The Panel identified that the captive lion industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly, the negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry, and the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and the illegal trade. The panel recommends that South Africa does not captive breed lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivatives commercially. I have requested the department to action this accordingly and ensure that the necessary consultation for implementation is conducted.
 
It is important to stress that the recommendations are not against the hunting industry. Preventing the hunting of captive lions is in the interests of the authentic wild hunting industry, and will boost the hunting economy and our international reputation, and the jobs that this creates.
 
Now that these recommendations are approved for implementation, they will result in a step-change, with the consequent benefits to our standing and reputation. Key to this is transforming the sector, reinvigorating the biodiversity economy through a focus on Big Five-based ecotourism and authentic hunting of wild specimens.  We will be partnering with the Department of Tourism to achieve this. In addition, mechanisms to improve benefit flows to restituted communities, as well as novel approaches to land-use planning, can enhance rural socio-economic development based on the wildlife economy.
 
The report provides specific direction as to how my Department can support the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in ensuring the welfare and wellbeing of wildlife, which will enhance our reputation and stimulate tourism.
 
We will, therefore, be working closely with this Department and other departments in this regard. In relation to enhancing our international reputation, an engagement with SADC partners and the African range states of these species and the leadership of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation will be required. A multi-sectoral approach to implementing the recommendations is therefore imperative.
 
In summary, I believe that the report provides a platform for not only achieving policy clarity but also for the development of a New Deal for people and wildlife in South Africa. Implementation of the recommendations will greatly transform the practices within the wildlife industry, enhance conservation of our environment and these species, invigorate the rural economies, and empower traditional practices, leadership, and healers. Finally, implementing these recommendations will result in both protection and enhancement of South Africa’s international reputation, repositioning the country as an even more competitive destination of choice for ecotourism and responsible hunting.

As indicated in the report, there have been a range of processes over the years that have not been properly implemented, and have resulted in the compromised position that the sector is in. This time I intend that we will act differently. I have instructed the Department, to develop an implementation plan for the recommendations.
 
Work has already begun, on a draft Policy Position that covers the key policy implications of the recommendations, which will shortly be published for public participation. The Department is also initiating a process to develop a draft White Paper on Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use for consultation. The more administrative processes required by the recommendations are all being taken up by the Department, and I have emphasised to the Department the need for full consultation with both the public, as well as with colleagues in government.
 
Apart from releasing the report of the Panel today, we are also putting in place a programme of stakeholder feedback sessions to give feedback on the findings and recommendations to those stakeholders who made submissions and also to those with an interest in the Panel’s work. We will also conduct the required public participation processes in respect of the implementation of some of the Panel’s recommendations.
 
In order to assist me in the communication of the Panel’s recommendations and in the development of an implementation plan, I have extended the term of the Chairperson of the Panel, and a small number of other Panel members, largely the drafting team.

Let me conclude by thanking all those organisations and individuals who assisted the Panel in its work by making submissions and providing the much-needed information and analysis on the areas under review. Your time and effort have resulted in a substantial body of work that will guide us in policy implementation for many years to come.

I thank you.

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Coca-Cola rains in local communities

To remind South Africans of the value of water and the need to protect and conserve our country’s water resources, the newly appointed Vice President of the South Africa franchise at Coca-Cola Africa, Phillipine Mtikitiki, is prioritising key sustainability issues such as water stewardship.

“Access to safe water remains a challenge in many of the communities in which we operate in South Africa and we, together with our bottling partners, have made it a priority to improve reliable access to safe water, to protect our water resources and replenish the water we use back into nature,” says Mtikit.

South Africa faces a number of challenges when it comes to water, but Mtikitiki says:

Partnerships between government, the private sector, NGOs and communities can help to improve reliable access to safe water and protect our water resources in a world affected by climate change.


“We are improving the overall water-use efficiency in our manufacturing plants as well as along our supply chain, partnering with government and communities to assess, understand and drive effective, long-term water stress solutions and replenish the water we use back to communities and nature,” she says.

When it comes to replenishing the equivalent of the water used in the making of its beverages, The Coca-Cola Foundation’s Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) focuses on replenishing water into nature in key watersheds by clearing alien invasive plants. These consume millions of litres of water each year, resulting in water shortages permanent loss to an already stressed water system.

Since 2019, RAIN has worked with partners such as The Nature Conservancy, World Wide Fund for Nature-South Africa (WWF-SA), Living Lands and the Endangered Wildlife Trust to clear 3 400 hectares in South Africa’s priority catchment areas, helping to replenish over an estimated 15-billion litres of water into nature over the next decade. The programme also provided employment and skills training for 389 women and young people in rural areas of South Africa.

“Access to water is inextricably linked to the economic empowerment of people.”

Vice President of the South Africa franchise at Coca-Cola Africa, Phillipine Mtikitiki

“Water is a valuable natural resource whose management requires all our commitment and collective actions.”
This is part of the motivation for local bottling partner, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa’s (CCBSA) Coke Ville Groundwater Harvesting Project, which provides access to water in certain water-scarce, remote communities with limited economic opportunities. This has taken place in the community of Tshikota, Limpopo, with five additional community access projects planned for deployment across KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape in March.

The target is to deliver over 60-million litres per year by the end of 2021.

Relief water also plays an important part of humanitarian operations to bring relief to drought-stricken communities.
Since the beginning of the year, Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages (CCPB) has been working with local municipalities in water-stressed regions in the Northern and Western Cape, leading relief water operations to assist communities. This has been a lifeline for people in these communities that have, at times in the past few weeks, been without water for up two days.

Expanding on its efforts in the Namakwa and Karkarms district in the Northern Cape, CCPB is now working to provide water relief to Merweville, Laingsburg and Touws River. To date, CCPB has delivered over 3-million litres of water using the tankers it invested in during the drought crisis to assist communities as well as providing specially produced Relief Water in 1L bottles.

“We’re confident that through our water stewardship efforts we will continue to make a difference and protect this most valuable resource,” concluded Mtikitiki.

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