JSE-listed energy and chemicals group Sasol, which is arguably South Africa’s largest fixed investor, has set the strengthening of stakeholder relationships as one of its top-five priorities for the coming year, as part of a move to deal with the risks posed by South Africa’s social problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The group expects to spend about 68% of its R32-billion capital expenditure (capex) budget on projects within South Africa during 2012/13, notwithstanding its major North American expansion aspirations. In 2011/12, the group also spent the bulk of its R29.2-billion capex on developments in its home market.
CEO David Constable reports that efforts to improve its lines of communication, including with “the CEO’s office”, predate the tragic August 16 events at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, in the North West province.
Sasol met with all of its trade unions on August 14, where discussions were held on the group’s strategy and ensuring “everyone’s voice is heard”.
The issue of stakeholder engagement had also been elevated to a key priority for the group’s 2013 financial year and had been accompanied by a change to one of the group’s core company values “from customer focused to stakeholder focused”.
“There’s a lot to be done. We understand that the country is facing major socioeconomic challenges . . . and we want to work in conjunction with all parties – government and our trade union colleagues – to make sure we are very well aligned and have open lines of communication,” Constable explained.
He said the relationships with unions were “very good”, but “extra focus” is being placed on improving communication.
“Our strategy in South Africa and Southern Africa is to protect and diversify our companies in-country and in the region and that means that we will continue to investment when it makes sense,” Constable asserts.
He adds that, while there was no current environmental solution to the development of a new coal-to-liquids plant, there were still growth opportunities in South Africa, some of which could be opened by the lifting of the moratorium on shale-gas exploration.
“Hopefully in the future, possibly with the crude gas another gas-to-liquids plant could be out there as well,” he adds.
Sasol, which supported the exploration moratorium and stepped back from involvement in an earlier Karoo basin shale-gas prospect, believes that, under a sound regulatory regime, it is in South Africa’s national interest to assess its shale-gas resources.
“So we are definitely interested in looking at opportunities in the Karoo, if it can be done in an environmentally-friendly fashion.”