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Businesses could enable environment-friendly future – consultants

An image of BDO South Africa audit partner and renewable energy expert Nato Oosthuizen

NATO OOSTHUIZEN There has been a significant shift in business attitudes regarding the environment, as someBDO South Africa clients are using energy-saving lighting and appliances, while others are doing away with the reliance on paper and plastics

22nd March 2024

By: Lumkile Nkomfe

Creamer Media Reporter

     

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Global professional services firm BDO South Africa asserts that the imperative for businesses to expedite their environmental commitments remains crucial to promoting sustainable growth.

The firm identifies carbon emissions, energy use and landfill waste as major contributors to the climate crisis, and is concerned that the crisis may have a significant effect on the agriculture sector, with extreme weather patterns and extended periods of drought affecting soil fertility.

A lack of food security could, therefore, not only lead to higher food prices – with debilitating socioeconomic effects – but also make conditions unsuitable for growing crops in various parts of the country, says BDO South Africa audit partner and renewable energy expert Nato Oosthuizen.

Despite the dour outlook, with it being difficult for the public sector to prioritise environmental, social and governance considerations, he adds that good traction has been made overall in spite of the challenges in the energy, infrastructure and logistics sectors.

Oosthuizen alludes to the economic and environmental feasibility of renewable-energy solutions, asserting that many businesses are becoming more environmentally conscious in their practices. He points to advances in environment-oriented research undertaken in the business sector and stresses the importance of environmental sustainability as “the lodestar of the corporate governance framework” .

There has been a significant shift in business attitudes regarding the environment, as some BDO South Africa clients are using energy-saving lighting and appliances, while others are doing away with the reliance on paper and plastics,” he notes.

Incentivising environment-friendly business practices could transform the business sector’s response to the climate crisis.

“A lot of countries are going the penalty route now. For example, one can enact carbon taxes, but companies also need to be given a chance [to] offset those taxes with green credits. So, if you are doing something that is harming the environment, do something that is sustainable to balance the effect,” he adds.

The firm also acknowledges the role of product end-users who lobby and advocate for environment-friendly practices. Oosthuizen says the influence of customer sentiments is realised in the marketing and business development strategies of various companies.

He signals that there is significant appetite from corporate finance institutions to invest “massively” in renewable energy: “Everyone is standing ready with their chequebooks. Banks love infrastructure investments, especially if they can return a commercial yield and make a social impact.”

Oosthuizen notes that it is important for municipalities to set the platform and work with the private sector in launching renewable-energy and infrastructure projects off the ground.

He also applauds the Just Energy Transition Implementation Plan as a step in the right direction in terms setting out the investments and interventions needed for South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.

However, Oosthuizen says the plan lacks depth and a formidable implementation strategy, consequently opening the door for misuse and undesirable results.

In the lead-up to the 2024 United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, from November 11 to 24, Oosthuizen maintains that there must be a structured forum where people can talk openly about global concerns, including sustainability and the environmental impact of business activities across industries.

Nonetheless, Oosthuizen stresses that significant progress has been made in arriving at the current juncture of climate change forums where tangible and impactful decisions are taken by important stakeholders.

He urges the public sector to prioritise and expedite the transition towards renewable energy, as South Africa can create a globally recognised industry for the development, manufacturing and assembly of world-class renewable-energy infrastructure and use this to export green energy to the rest of the world. This will result in significant job creation, if executed effectively, he concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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