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    Alex has been consulting to many of South Africa’s blue-chip companies for the past five years, using innovative thinking to help them reduce their impact on the environment and enhance their bottom line. He is also a founding member of Carbon Calculated, a carbon management consultancy, and is also the creator of Carbon Known, a carbon management software solution.
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  • Small firms in the dark over going green

    Friday, May 19, 2017

    A survey conducted by the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs) and supported by JP Morgan has found that very few manufacturing small, medium and macro enterprises (SMMEs) in Gauteng are environmentally aware and engaged in the green economy.

    Fast facts:

    • “Zumas come and go, but we get one shot at the environment,” says Dr Jonathan Marks, a senior lecturer at Gibs who teaches entrepreneurship.
    • Much of SA’s economy relies on extractive industries, which damages the environment, he says.
    • At the 2017 World Economic Forum, it was highlighted that large numbers of people are employed by green industry businesses, including 3.5-million in Bangladesh, 1.4-million in Brazil and 2-million in Germany.
    • The Gibs study found a limited understanding of what it meant to be sustainable and part of the green economy.
    • Many SMMEs are not willing to sacrifice profit for better environmental practices.
    • Ethical practice among some SMMEs is also quite poor in the areas of governance and human rights, Marks says. Many of these businesses feel that if the government is “lying, cheating and stealing”, they are entitled to do the same.
    • The government needs to communicate more clearly the business benefits of sustainable practice, making it easy for SMMEs to access funding and support for these, the study recommends.

    Source: Business Day: Economy and Environment, Hanna Ziady, 10/042017

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    Airline waste – a problem that needs fixing

    Thursday, May 18, 2017

    You are probably well aware of the waste problem in our oceans. But how about the one in our skies?

    Fast Facts:

    • According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Airlines generated 5.2m tonnes of waste in 2016, most of which went to landfill or incineration. This figure is set to double over the next 15 years.
    • Toilet waste is included in that statistic. But so are miniature wine bottles, half-eaten lunch trays, unused toothbrushes and other hallmarks of air travel.
    • A Spanish project launched last autumn by a group of companies including Iberia Airlines and Ferrovial Services aims to recover 80% of cabin waste coming into Madrid’s Barajas airport by mid-2020 through simple measures such as using trolleys designed for waste separation. About 2,500 cabin crew members will be trained in the basics of waste separation as part of the push.
    • The programme, which aims to produce guidelines for use in other airports, is also exploring low-packaging meals and reusable cutlery, as well as data-led solutions.
    • Last year, Gatwick airport opened an on-site waste-to-energy plant, reducing the need for lorries to transport waste elsewhere. Like Heathrow, it is also targeting a 70% recycling rate by 2020.
    • America’s United Airlines has switched to compostable paper cups and last year began donating unused amenity kits to homeless and women’s shelters – it expects to divert more than 27 tonnes-worth by the end of the first year.
    • Virgin has set up a system for recycling all parts of its headsets, including ear sponges, which are used as flooring for equestrian centres.
    • Michael Gill – IATA’s head of environment – says that regulation is key. At the moment EU animal health legislation, drawn up as a reaction to diseases like foot and mouth, dictates that all catering waste arriving from outside EU borders be treated as high-risk and incinerated or buried in deep landfill.
    • Most important, however, is getting the cabin crew’s buy-in says Magda Golebiewska, group environment manager at TUI Airlines. This can be a challenge since the crew is already busy meeting on-board sales targets and looking after passengers, she says.
    • Cabin waste costs the industry $500m (£400m) per year, according to IATA, a figure that it says is rising faster than waste volumes thanks to growing disposal costs.
    • Matt Rance, chief executive of MNH Sustainable Cabin Services, says that bringing down cabin waste will require airlines to take a different approach to procurement. If they can be persuaded to focus on a product’s full life cost, rather than unit price, then investing in more durable headsets or blankets and ditching disposables starts to make sense, he says.
    • Designing cabin products with waste minimisation in mind can also help, Rance says. Qantas, for example, is combining its charity donation envelope with its headset package, cutting one polythene bag per passenger per flight.

    Source: The Guardian: Environment, Olivia Boyd, 01/04/017

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    With Government in retreat, companies step up on emissions

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

    The Trump administration may be pondering a retreat from the United States’ climate commitments, but corporate America is moving ahead with its own emissions goals.

    Fast Facts:

    • Nearly half of the Fortune 500 biggest companies in the United States have now set targets to shrink their carbon footprints.
    • Almost two dozen companies, including Google, Walmart and Bank of America, have pledged to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy.
    • Google’s data centers worldwide will run entirely on renewable energy by the end of this year, the technology giant announced in December.
    • The laggards, by far, are energy companies. Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Phillips 66 — the largest emitters of the pack — all have no specific public targets to reduce greenhouse gases, improve energy efficiency or shift to renewable energy.
    • President Trump has signed an executive order to reverse most of President Barack Obama’s climate change efforts, effectively ceding American leadership in the global effort to curb global warming.
    • Even companies that disclose emissions and targets may be underreporting their ecological footprints, because disclosure is not subject to the kinds of rigorous standards that would be applied to the company’s books, said Andreas Hoepner from Henley Business School.
    • “Setting targets is a step forward. I’d rather know something than nothing at all,” he said. “But for some companies, reporting could be just a form of marketing” said Hoepner.

    Source: New York Times: Climate, Hiroko Tabuchi, 25/04/2017

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    Nelson Mandela Bay on brink of disaster as water crisis deepens

    Friday, March 10, 2017

    Port Elizabeth is on the brink of being declared a disaster area as the water crisis deepens

    Fast facts:

    • Despite imposing water restrictions on industry and households, the Nelson Mandela Bay’ Municipality’s principle dam – the Churchill Dam – is currently below 27% capacity.
    • The total combined capacity of the 10 dams supplying the metro was 47.2% as of Tuesday (7 March 2017). Should it dip below 45%, the metro could apply to have the region declared a disaster area.
    • During the last drought, the municipality applied for disaster relief and received R1.6bn in aid.
    • Mayor, Athol Trollip has said 20% of residents were consuming more than 70% of the city’s total water supply.
    • Annette Lovemore – mayoral committee member for infrastructure and engineering – said between 20% and 25% of potable water from treatment works was lost through leaks.
    • Since the metro had implemented water restrictions and started an awareness campaign, the number of leaks reported in February went from 16 661 in 2016 to 25 056 this year.
    • Lovemore stated that there is a shortage in the capacity to address this problem. “Our backlog is too big and our turnaround time is way too long. We should have 51 plumbers. We currently have 29.” Burst pipes were a priority, and needed to be fixed within 24 hours. The average response times for smaller leaks were between 18 and 24 days.
    • Trollip has stated that the municipality might need to resort to increasing water restrictions and imposing punitive charges for high water consumption.

    Source: News24, Derrick Spies, 07 March 2017


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    Populism will not fix problems of economy

    Tuesday, February 21, 2017

    Issues of poverty, unemployment and inequality threaten the fundamentals of South Africa’s democracy.

    Fast facts:

    • In late 2016 researchers convened to discuss the Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth (REDI3x3), a three-year national project initiated by the Treasury to fill in key gaps in the evidence base in support of inclusive growth.
    • A major question sparked by this research is how to make growth more inclusive, but this is difficult to answer when it has barely nudged above 0.5% in the past year.
    • Research by Martin Wittenberg of the University of Cape Town (UCT) shows that earnings at the top end have increased faster than earnings at the bottom. Earnings in the middle, though, have stagnated.
    • Research by Arden Finn, Murray Leibbrandt and Vimal Ranchhod estimates that if your parents are poor, the chances of your being poor are 90%.
    • About 10% of the population owns 95% of the wealth. This profile, combined with youth unemployment of about 50%, is a recipe for anger and frustration.
    • Social grants, which now sustain more than 17-million people, have done much to alleviate poverty.
    • Personal income tax is the government’s largest source of revenue, yet only about 7-million people earn enough to pay income tax.
    • Only 4% of those who enter school are likely to get a tertiary degree — and most of those students attended former model C or private schools.
    • More than 80% of jobs are created in companies that employ 50 or more people.
    • People who live in urban areas and earn the least use up to 40% of their income to pay for transport because they live far from their work, researcher Andrew Kerr has found.

    Source: Business Day: Opinion, Murray Leibbrandt and Pippa Green, 09 February 2017

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