South African safari lodge sets ESG standard

3rd February 2021 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

The Mdluli Safari Lodge, built as part of a community and private sector sustainable tourism initiative, has been awarded a AA+ grade by independent investment advisory firm Impact Capital Africa for having an impact across four of the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reports Impact Capital Africa (ICA) CEO Brett Wallington.

The project led to inspiring positive payoffs across a core and wide range of SDGs, quantified through the application of ICA's +Impact SDG Investment Grading Tool.

The tool is a robust, objective methodology that measures an investment’s performance against the universally recognised standards set by the SDGs.

The lodge employs 84% of its current staff from the surrounding community, of which 61% are women.

"Our assessment shows that this tourism initiative has set a new South African standard for investment projects that optimise financial, social and environmental returns, also known as impact or environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing.

"Investors look for ESG ratings to support their decisions and help to ensure that their investments not only have a positive impact on the world around them but also offer sustainable returns in the long run."

ICA  recognised the project for providing decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), with at least 120 people from the Mdluli community directly benefitting from employment at the lodge.

The project also helped to reduced inequalities (SDG 10), as the Mdluli community owns a 50% stake in the lodge, with the remaining half of shares held by private investors. Profit share accrues in substantial measure to staff from the community and helps to reduce inequality.

Further, the project helps to further sustainable communities (SDG 11) and the lodge was designed to improve the economic and cultural wellbeing of the Mdluli community, including investment in clinics, schools, roads, accommodation and cultural institutions.

Additionally, the lodge is situated in the community-owned Mdluli Safari Reserve within the Kruger National Park, which is managed with a view to preserving and enhancing biodiversity. Measures include an anti-poaching programme, staffed by community members who, as part of the investment project, have been trained as anti-poaching rangers and conservationists. This impacts on SDG 15 life on land.

Across the whole range of 17 SDGs, the Mdluli Safari Lodge achieved a 74% (AA) grade. This puts the lodge in an elite bracket of impactful projects with a highly significant ability to promote conservation through responsible ecotourism, protect the environmental and cultural heritage of South Africa’s rural areas, and bring about deep and lasting socioeconomic change for communities, says Wallington.