For smart businesses, money can grow on trees

10 Sep 2018

The future of business and nature are said to be intertwined and as such there is need to raise awareness of the importance of natural capital, Alexandra Russell, the Vice President- Strategy, Policy and Sustainability at SASOL has said.

Speaking at the just ended Insurance Institute of Botswana annual conference held under the theme “The practical implications of driving sustainability”, Russell said that every business depends on natural capital, and as it comes under pressure, so does the business.

Natural capital can be defined as the world's stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water and all living things. It is from this natural capital that humans derive a wide range of services, often called ecosystem services, which make human life possible.

Russell encouraged the participants at the conference to take all the capital that they have be it water resources mineral resources or oxygen supply and preserve it for future generations.

“We do not have a calling of things, so at the moment we all live here with this finite resources, so if we want a future for our businesses, we need to start becoming custodians of those resources and applying them for our own benefit but also making sure that there is sufficient for future generations.”

Russell says sustainability is becoming the new normal together with concepts like innovation and circular economy as these are the best words that people are now starting to use and understand better.

She noted that sustainable development is about intergrading the goals of high quality of life together with health prosperity, social justice, human rights issues and well maintained earth capacity to support life in all its diversity.

“If we take these goals, social, economic and environmental and we mutually reinforce them in future we can have something very powerful that says we can express this as a broader expectation of our society as whole,” she said.

She says at SASOL it is something they get audited on as it influences cost of capital and ratings.

Meanwhile Russell said, “We cannot insure stranded assets into the future, so all this asseteric issues are coming home to lost and have a hard impact on our bodyline.”

Adding that if corporates do not put their heads on what that means, it is going to impact them financially.

She quoted from Harvard: “sustainable business does not only indicate a focus on what companies do with their profits, but also how they make them.”

Russell states that, what happening to corporates is that they are being watched by investors and analysts and to an extent that they do not have confidence that the corporates are being responsible in the space, they will divest.

“ That is a new trend that is happening particularly around whole companies and we are going to still see it in future so for insurance this is going to become an issue, so if you are an investor and say I do not have comfort in that company the whole part of project come trembling down,” she noted.