Western Cape Business News

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ENVIRONMENT: Carbon Neutral Status To Rival BEE


Recent Western Cape Business News

Companies could soon see their carbon neutral status become a more important criteria than their Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) rating when tendering for business. This is according to Gianmarco Lorenzi, CEO of Cape Town-based Cleardata - the first document destruction company in South Africa to achieve carbon neutral status.

Lorenzi believes that while environmental issues may have taken a slight back-seat to the current economic crisis, the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and its effect on climate change should be the most important long-term strategic challenge for South African businesses.

“BEE is currently a crucial factor when evaluating local supplier credentials, but I believe in a few years time, the carbon footprint of potential service providers will play an even bigger role.”

Achieving a carbon neutral rating is fast-proving a competitive advantage for many companies across a variety of industries from manufacturing to specialist sectors such as IT. Key local airline players have also recently reaffirmed their commitment to work towards carbon neutral growth and reduce their industry's contribution to global warming.

“Reducing a company’s carbon footprint is more feasible than many people realise as all it takes is a thorough analysis of current energy use, followed by the introduction of day-to-day practices to reduce harmful emissions caused by energy consumption and travel. For example, following a review of our transport practices we introduced bio-diesel as our fuel of choice which contributed to our carbon neutral status.”

According to Kevin James, CEO of Global Carbon Exchange - an independent body specialising in carbon management - carbon neutral status is realised when an organisatision has a net carbon emission that is zero.

“Attaining this status is a process that requires a specialised carbon audit whereby a company’s full national ‘carbon footprint’ is analysed. This includes looking at, among others, electricity bills, air conditioning practices and employee travel methods.”

James says the key is for companies to first reduce their environmental impact as much as possible and then to then look for ways to offset their carbon emissions in order to be neutral. “For example, we calculate the number of trees to be planted to offset a company’s carbon footprint. In Cleardata’s case they planted 300 trees to offset their 2008 emissions, facilitated by Food and Trees for Africa in one of their urban tree planting programs.”

When it comes to companies reducing their impact on global warming, South Africa is currently ahead of other African countries, but is still behind the developed world, warns James. “Our local export companies are under increasing pressure to conform to standards set by European retailers if they want to continue to participate in the international supply chain.”

He says that in order for South Africa to catch up with other developing countries, carbon emissions need to be regulated by government to include tax incentives for companies buying or making use of environment-friendly products or services. “The introduction of a carbon tax by local Treasury is imminent as well as serious punitive tariff rises compromising bottom lines for companies not meeting efficiency targets.”

Lorenzi says that Cleardata have noted an increase in the number of clients looking to use their document destruction and recycling services for environmental purposes rather than pure data protection, reaffirming the growing environmental awareness of local companies.

“Reluctant local industries need to be more proactive and take responsibility for their effect on South Africa’s environment by investing in methods designed for carbon emission reduction, as well as influencing the behavior of their suppliers where appropriate. They will see the benefits as we move towards the inevitable carbon-constrained economy of the future where action in this space will be mandatory,” concludes Lorenzi.

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