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DEVELOPMENT: Cape Town Business Backs Sustainability


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Sustainability is becoming part of ‘business as usual’ in many large companies and nowhere is this more evident than in Cape Town, according to Accelerate Cape Town CEO Guy Lundy.  A group of sustainability leaders from some of the largest organisations in the Cape gathered recently - brought together as an initiative of Accelerate Cape Town - to connect with each other, share common experiences in the sustainability arena, and to draft a plan of action to achieve jointly-held sustainability goals.

Accelerate Cape Town is a business-led initiative that aims specifically to bring together stakeholders to drive sustainable, inclusive growth in the Cape.  Backed by 36 of the largest organisations in the Cape, earlier this year Accelerate Cape Town helped define business’s vision for the Cape Town City Region for the next 20 years.  Entitled “Vision 2030”, this describes Cape Town as Africa’s global city – a city of inspiration and innovation.  Sustainability is a key part of any such vision and business in the Cape is acting on this belief by driving a number of initiatives in this area. 

Representatives from Investec, Old Mutual, Ernst & Young, Cadiz, BATSA, Santam, Woolworths, Media 24, Distell, Webber Wentzel and KPMG met with others from the City of Cape Town, the Cape Town Partnership and a number of smaller organisations.  The gathering, sponsored by Investec, was seen as a demonstration of the growing status of sustainability in large businesses in the Cape, as well as the desire to learn from one another.

Guy Lundy, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town, stressed that “sustainability is no longer restricted to fringe or progressive organisations.  It has become mainstream, and so it should be.”  He maintains that “Cape Town is taking the lead in this area, as demonstrated by our recent Green Week, the City’s conference aimed at Planning for a Low-carbon City and the large number of initiatives being driven by organisations like these.”

Attendees shared information on the challenges they face in implementing sustainability programmes.  Aside from the obvious issue of embedding an appreciation for sustainability in organisations at large, they commented that baselining, and then measuring progress, both presented their share of obstacles.  They stressed, however, that competing at a global level enforces a large number of green measures.  Distell, for example, faces considerable competition when selling wine to international retailers, as the energy used to produce their products is from Eskom and thus coal-fired. It therefore suffers by comparison with the renewable energy used to produce wine from New Zealand.

The group also shared a number of learnings that have helped drive their programmes.  While committed corporate leadership is key to maintaining the focus on sustainability, they also spoke about the benefits of starting small with such programmes, and of enlisting the support of staff at all levels of their organisations.

A number of specific initiatives, all impressively innovative, were profiled in the meeting.  Included among them were :

·     a Green Skills Awards Programme, aimed at developing skills to make green jobs possible,

·     the City of Cape Town’s extensive energy efficiency imperative

·     Renewable Energy Certificates from GreenX Energy, and

·     the project to reclaim the Camisa river running underground through Cape Town

Other impressive programmes within the organisations attending were also raised, such as Old Mutual’s success in reducing energy requirements for their servers.

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