While stakeholder opinion is divided, environmental offsets are an important financial mechanism to create least cost impact reduction while maintaining maximum economic growth potential. Offsets apply across a range of environmental commodities and South Africa’s National Government are currently considering offsets across carbon (potentially aligned to Desired Emissions Reduction Outcomes and the Carbon Tax), air quality, water and biodiversity. During 2014 the NBI facilitated member company working groups to consider air quality and carbon offsets in particular. This process raised a number of concerns about how offset markets in particular might function and how rules should be set to enhance the effectiveness of these markets. These thoughts were shared with government officials in Environmental Offsets in general, Air Quality and Treasury.
As a direct result of this process the NBI were asked to contribute to an Environmental Offsetting Reference Group and we currently chair the Eskom Multi-Stakeholder Reference Group for their Air Quality Offset Pilot. We have also attended public consultations on Carbon Offsetting and use the knowledge gained to support BUSA in their submissions on offsetting to the National Government.
Biodiversity is fundamentally important to healthy ecosystems and the environment as a whole. It is really important and complex and is typified by several recent publications and compacts.
- Unfortunately the NBI does not have sufficient resources to actively engage in biodiversity projects. We do however integrate biodiversity thinking into all our other programmes, in particular green economy finance and adaptation. We support biodiversity indirectly by sitting on the steering groups of the National Business and Biodiversity Network, managed by Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). It is also a topic within our broader Offsets
- This is an area our member companies have marked out for future expansion and we continue to monitor developments in biodiversity with keen interest and support from a number of government consultation processes on biodiversity, ecosystem based adaptation and adaptation finance.
Given recent changes to South Africa’s legislation, Waste is an area fast rising up the agenda of sustainability managers within our member companies. Consequently we have started to focus more explicitly on Waste as a work area although this remains a fledgling programme. Our inaugural Thought Leadership Series session looked at the current status of waste legislation and the role NBI member companies can play in engaging with consultative processes through our partner body Business Unity South Africa (BUSA).
However, the greatest opportunity for waste management does not lie in compliance but in voluntary actions around waste, in particular the opportunity to implement new business models that are typified by the movements towards industrial symbiosis and the circular economy. This is where businesses consider waste streams from one company as input streams into their process or vice versa. This limits waste to landfill and other disposal methods (e.g. incineration) and creates employment opportunities. As a result the NBI sits on the steering committee for the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme and intend working with our partner organisation the National Cleaner Production Centre in bringing these concepts to our member companies.