Nedbank, which is the first carbon neutral bank in Africa, is trying to achieve an overarching approach to its projects to ensure that a range of resources are targeted in mitigating climate change, says Nedbank sustainability carbon specialist Marco Lotz.
“Too often, as a country, we run off at a tangent, only focusing on carbon or water. There is no single resource that needs to be tackled, as they are all important. Nedbank is trying to prevent the allocation of blame, in terms of the contributing factors to climate change, and to move beyond guilt to action,” he explains.
Nedbank head of sustainability, enterprise governance and compliance Brigitte Burnett says: “Nedbank has an integrated approach to considering the economic sustainability of the company and the South African economy, as well as environmental, cultural and social sustainability.”
Lotz explains that, in terms of reducing South Africa’s carbon footprint, the company has various aims.
The bank’s short-term aims include initiatives such as having donated 20 solar cookers for the international environmental organisation 350.org Solar Build Day, in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, in November last year, as well as Nedbank Wealth’s sponsorship of a Nintendo Wii golf event powered by people on bicycles at the 2010 Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Lotz explains that Nedbank is also helping to create staff ambassadors by offering subsidised recycling bins, egg timers to time showers, and establishing community sustainability programmes for which staff volunteer.
“Nedbank manages its direct impact as much as it can, but the company’s larger role is to change mindsets and behaviour to the point where everyone is carbon and water aware. “By encouraging our staff to use small mechanisms, we spread the awareness of climate change initiatives beyond Nedbank’s walls to the community,” concludes Burnett.
Nedbank’s midterm aim includes expanding projects such as its sustainability consumer education and Eco-Schools programme to involve more underprivileged communities.
It aims to inform more communities about the need to take responsibility for their own sustainability, while providing them with the knowledge and ability to do so. The programme also reflects the interdependence of the four key pillars of sustainability – environmental, social, economic and cultural – and the benefits of integrating these four pillars into the everyday lives of communities.
The bank hopes to partner with nongovernmental organisations or other educational bodies this year to involve more schools and communities in the programme.
“Nedbank’s plans for the 2011 sustainability consumer education and Eco-Schools programme are to run workshops for adults and learners in 20 Eco-Schools and to ensure 1 500 Nedbank staff participate in the programme,” says Nedbank Retail sustainability manager Nina Wellsted.
The programme includes the practical application of sustainability principles in the construction of a community vegetable tunnel at one of the schools, a rainwater harvesting tank to maintain the vegetable garden, or a solar cooker as an alternative cooking device, depending on the identified community priorities.
Last year, the bank sponsored the installation of five 12-m × 3-m solar-powered robots at intersections in the Sandton central business district.
The solar-powered intersections form part of a pilot project undertaken by the Johannesburg Roads Agency and contractor Sunrise Technologies.
“Each solar-powered intersection has the potential to save up to 150 kWh a month, saving 1 800 kWh/y for each intersection. This is enough to power 6 750 energy saver light bulbs for a day,” says Sunrise Technologies chairperson Ka Shabangu.
Burnett says that, through the installation of the solar-powered robots, Nedbank is trying to change mindsets and encour- age acceptability of new technologies, while keeping the traffic flowing to ensure that people get to work on time, helping to maintain the economy by preventing the loss of worker hours resulting from faulty traffic lights.
In the long term, Nedbank plans to facilitate a balanced opinion regarding the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and where South Africa is headed in terms of climate change.
“When South Africa implements the IRP, it will aim to reduce the country’s carbon footprint from 1 t/MWh of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to maybe 0,8 t/MWh of CO2 emissions. However, we can potentially lose out on the carbon revenue generated by companies that rely on a high grid emission factor to generate and sell carbon credits.
“How do we balance the idea of being a green country while simultaneously preventing companies from becoming disenfranchised in terms of gaining additional profit?” asks Lotz.