How to become more effective: building sustainable business

How to become more effective: building sustainable business
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Business owners and executives are facing a complex set of social, environmental, market, political, and technological changes. A substantive number of organisations and industries in South Africa have been experiencing rapid, massive, and sometimes devastating change over the last 10 years. This rapidly-changing environment requires flexible, innovative and sustainability-based management, supported by management systems that can accommodate them.

Understandably, organisations are reluctant to place sustainability at the centre of  business strategy, believing that costs outweigh the benefits. On the contrary, business experience points to the opposite effect – embedding sustainability can benefit performance and ensure survival.

The competitive advantage of stakeholder engagement

The aim of traditional business models is to create value for investors. Today, organisations are involved in multiple relationships, making them interdependent and reliant on each other for success. Sustainable organisations create value through engagement with stakeholders, which places them in a position to anticipate and react to changes when they arise.

An instance of the necessity for adapting to change is evident in South Africa. Everyone understands that development and economic growth are impossible without sustainable water supplies. Many public and private organisations still focus solely on improving water efficiency or implementing water-related corporate social responsibility projects. A great example present – while SABMiller works to improve water efficiency in its operations, the organisation’s water risk occurs beyond the factory gate.  To secure its water supply, SABMiller has formed key partnerships to understand shared water risk in Tanzania and South Africa.

Until recently, water stewardship was a fringe idea. However, organisations like Nestlé and Coca-Cola have emerged as influential water stewardship leaders, joining forces with the International Finance Corporation to form the 2030 Water Resources Group, which tackles water scarcity.

Good stakeholder relations can also avert disastrous conflict situations, which can severely disrupt operations. The Marikana tragedy of 2012 is a sobering reminder. Investors took a huge knock and responded by questioning whether the strike pointed to wide-spread labour relations problems in the Lonmin Group, and spelt the end for South African platinum mining.

Improving Risk Management

Global supply chains are vulnerable to many risks. A McKinsey survey revealed that 90% of organisations could point to ‘a specific event or risk’ – such as consumer pressure  – that triggered their commitment to sustainability. McKinsey reports that risk related to sustainability issues can be as high as ‘70% of earnings before costs’.

In the agriculture, food, and beverage sectors climate change can alter growing conditions, causing disruptions in supply. Nestle works with small scale cocoa producers in West Africa and other countries to improve crop yields, train farmers and monitor child labour practices.

Unlike traditional business risk, social and environmental risks manifest over a longer period, often affecting an organisation in multiple areas. These risks are largely outside the organisation’s direct control, and managing them may require investments for capacity building and developing adaptive strategies.

Fostering Innovation

Investing in sustainability can drive innovation. Redesigning products to meet environmental or social needs offers new opportunities. Unilever has embraced an end-to-end sustainability approach and has responded to water-scarcity by developing a dishwashing liquid that uses less water. Sales of the product outpace category growth in certain water-scarce markets.

Building Customer Loyalty

Today’s consumers expect transparency and honesty, and can choose from many sustainable, competitively priced products. In fact, in the food and beverage industry, a growing number of consumers are considering values beyond price and taste in their purchasing decisions.

Improving Financial Performance

Over and above the financial benefits that arise from competitive advantage and innovation, organisations are saving costs through better management of natural resources. Moreover, investors are paying attention.

By tracking environmental, social and governance factors, investors are seeing an overall improvement in financial performance. Dow Chemical has an ambitious environmentally-driven business model, which CEO Andrew Liveris  says is good for the earth and the bottom line.

ISO standards support long-term sustainable success

Sustainability can only be achieved by following a relentlessly process of continual improvement. ISO has developed a number of standards, each of which details approaches to achieving long-term sustainable success.

An organisation can thrive in any one of the following areas, by either implementing a standalone or an integrated Management System:

ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems (QMS)

ISO 9001:2015 focuses on continual improvement and provides management with the ability to improve by bringing together quality management system results and business performance results.

ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

ISO 14001:2015 focuses on continual improvement and promotes environmental sustainability.

ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHS)

ISO 45001:2018 focuses on risk assessments related to workplace hazards with participation across the organisation and drives continual improvement.

ISO/DIS 50001 Energy Management Systems (EnMS)

ISO/DIS 50001 (pending a release of revision) focuses on continual improvement and assists organisations to integrate Energy Management into their efforts to improve Environmental Management.

For more information or guidance on which ISO standard(s) and services would best suit the needs of your organisation, please email Risk ZA at or contact us on 0861 Risk ZA / +27 (0) 31 569 5900.

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Zero Waste To Landfill With ISO 14001:2015 – Waste Management

Waste Management
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“People don’t understand waste,” says Chris Whyte, managing director of a Durban-based organisation that reclaims waste materials from landfills. “When people talk about climate change and issues of sustainability, they allocate a tiny sliver of the problem – 2% – to landfill,” he explains. “That’s because the measurements apply only to landfill gas emissions. But put landfill into perspective: we landfill 6 000 tons a day. That is 600 10-ton trucks, and that’s just Durban.”

Rapid urbanisation in South Africa – and globally – has resulted in increased waste production due to new commercial enterprises, accommodation, hotels, and restaurants. The pace of urbanisation is projected to be the fastest in low-income and middle-income countries, which will present challenges to governments to meet the needs of their growing urban populations.

A World Bank report in 2016 noted that worldwide municipal solid waste is growing faster than the rate of urbanisation, and these levels are expected to double by 2025. Alarmingly, the World Bank’s disposal data shows that almost half of global waste sent to landfill is organic material made up of paper, plastic, glass and metal. So, much of this waste could be recycled.

As it stands, almost all of South Africa’s solid waste (88%) is sent to landfill, or taken off-site for disposal by hazardous waste removal specialists. As the 2016 World Bank report highlights, global waste management efforts are far from stellar, but even so South Africa lags behind other countries and even its fellow BRICS countries in waste management.

pollution waste

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, a Senior Director at the World Bank Group comments that: “Without good solid waste management, you can’t build a sustainable and livable city. There are climate, health, and safety impacts, as well as important social considerations, from the inclusion of waste pickers to changing behaviour so people and societies are encouraged to reduce and recycle waste.”

The Future of Waste Management in Africa

Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and technological innovations, smart African cities will be able to achieve zero waste and reduce municipalities’ operational costs by using more efficient waste collection systems. The smart waste collection technology industry is still in its infancy, but Navigant Research, a U.S. research company expects this type of technology to grow from $57.6-million in 2016 to over $223-million by 2025.

Nick Manny of Aurecon cautions, though, that it will not be possible for municipalities to go from the current landfill situation to smart technologies quickly because the technical, financial, institutional and social restrictions they face will not be easy to overcome. Waste management is therefore up to industry, waste management suppliers and experts working together to find solutions to the challenges that confront governments and municipalities.

Reaching for Zero Waste to Landfill Using ISO 14001

Waste management is the process of treating wastes, and it offers solutions for recycling and reusing materials and substances that do not belong in landfill or can be used for other purposes. Waste diversion from landfills is an important sustainability effort for organisations to strive towards as it demonstrates environmental stewardship, which a growing number of customers and other stakeholders are coming to expect.

Industry leaders like Walmart and Starbucks are in the process of rolling out waste diversion programmes as a key part of their Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. Their sights are set on achieving a zero waste to landfill milestone, starting at a facility-level and aiming globally. Subaru of Indiana Automotive is an indisputable trailblazer in the coveted zero waste to landfill management goal. For the past 13 years, Subaru and two of their manufacturing plants in Japan have sent zero waste to local landfills. Subaru’s coveted zero-waste to landfill achievement is guided by ISO 14001.

The Canon Group is one of the few organisations to achieve consolidated ISO 14001 certification covering all their operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The organisation uses their Environmental Management System to apply environmental considerations to every aspect of the product lifecycle and at the end of their life, products are stripped down and re-used or recycled.​

Closing Thoughts

ISO 14001:2015 provides a framework and a structured approach to handling waste but does not prescribe the steps in waste handling, which means that every organisation can approach the process of waste management according to their own needs.

Training of all employees and contractors that have anything to do with the handling of waste is a necessary first step towards waste management. The ISO 14001:2015 Standard will provide your organisation with an effective waste management strategy to maximise resources and minimise environmental impact. ISO 14001 also has the flexibility to include changes to legislation, materials, prices and customer expectations that will repay your organisation’s investment in training and the time it takes to develop an effective strategy.

Zero Waste To Landfill With ISO 14001:2015 - Waste Management

For more information or guidance on which ISO standard(s) and services would best suit the needs of your organisation, please email Risk ZA at or contact us on 0861 Risk ZA / +27 (0) 31 569 5900.

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ISO Standards Provide the Foundation for Building Customer Relationships

ISO Standards Provide the Foundation for Building Customer Relationships

ISO Standards Provide the Foundation for Building Customer Relationships

The aftershock of the global debt crisis set the scene for a change in public sentiment towards big business. Since the credit crunch, house prices have fallen, consumer confidence has plummeted, taxes and prices have increased, and unemployment has risen.

The international organisation GlobeScan’s research shows that public trust particularly in banks and oil companies is ‘deep in negative territory’, and the top two issues banks need to address to regain trust are operating ethically and improving customer / online services.

In 2011 former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop wrote his famous Burning Platform memo, in which he lamented missed opportunities and indicated multiple strategic challenges to the mobile phone company. Distilled, the lesson of the burning platform is that it is far better to anticipate the crisis and change your behaviour long before the explosion.

In these uncertain times, operating ethically and building trust with your customers and stakeholders is vitally important for the long-term success of your organisation.

What lies at the heart of public scepticism?

In the run-up to the debt crisis, traders and investment bankers focused on selling customers financial products, particularly subprime mortgages loans. Whether the client or borrower defaulted, was of little interest to banks. These groups were interested in lining their pockets and not on building long-term relationships with clients. Bank executives and managers, too, focused on sales and bonus targets rather than thinking of long-term performance and sustainability.

When the US subprime mortgage catastrophe began unravelling, the world entered a global financial crisis. In the wake of 9 August 2007, panicking customers queued to withdraw their savings and the first bank run in years began. With default a real possibility, investors began demanding higher yields for bonds issued by Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain. As a result, Spain’s housing market collapsed, Greece’s economy imploded and Ireland slid into recession.

The depth and duration of the financial crisis shook investor confidence and waves of violent protests swept through Europe.

public protest

Tighter liquidity following the debt crisis undoubtedly severely constrained South Africa’s economy, but government corruption compounded the problem, resulting in sluggish growth, company closures, unemployment and deepening poverty. Deviant conduct is so entrenched within institutions of government that it threatens their survival.

In what seems to be another instance of too little too late, treasury is hastily attempting to restore voter confidence ahead of elections by financing a commission of inquiry into state capture and stabilising state-owned enterprises (SOEs) hollowed out from years of poor governance, procurement irregularities and fraud.

“We are working on rebuilding trust in public institutions,” Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene proclaimed before the standing committee on finance in Parliament on Tuesday 8 May.

Customer trust is hard won and easily lost

But it’s not only bank executives, politicians and their cronies who are guilty of such transgressions.

In what has become known as the ‘meat-scandal’, big name South African supermarket brands were tarnished when they were caught stocking incorrectly labelled meat products. Tested meat samples revealed ingredients not listed on product labels, including donkey, water buffalo, goat and pork meat. This not only violated food-labelling regulations, but presented religious and ethical concerns for the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Shortly before the supermarket ‘meat-scandal’, a Cape Town based importer admitted to re-labelling kangaroo meat from Australia and water buffalo meat from India as halal, causing outrage in the Muslim community.

Internet giant Facebook is embroiled in a world of trouble as the US federal government investigates the sharing of users’ private information with Cambridge Analytica and others unknown, while auditing firm KPMG South Africa recently appointed new board members in an attempt to restore trust after its involvement with the politically-connected Gupta family.

meat scandal

Iraj Abedian, CEO at Pan-African Investments and Research Services, commented in a press statement that:

“KPMG has to come clean before it can win back the trust of society. Changing a few characters around before coming clean is ignoring and not dealing with the issues.”

Barclays Africa, one of the continent’s largest banks, is the latest of several big corporate clients to announce that it will no longer be using KPMG auditing services. In a statement to the press on May 3, the bank announced:

“ongoing and more recent developments were evaluated by the board, which decided that it can no longer support the reappointment of KPMG”.

Customer trust is priceless

We all know how Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks can sink a product range, taint a brand’s image or batter an organisation’s reputation in a matter of minutes. It can take just one disreputable supplier, or one perceived hypocrisy, and marketing spend goes up in smoke.

Consumers frame their opinions around green and ethical claims made by organisations from what they read on social networks and trust the opinions of friends, family and people in the community in product-purchasing decisions above all advertising and marketing efforts.


“The power relationship between people and brands has forever changed because of social networks.” – Dion Chang, Flux Trends.

American management expert, Dr. Gary Hamel puts five issues at the centre of whether a business will thrive or fail in the years ahead: values, innovation, adaptability, passion and ideology.   

Of all these challenges, the issue of trust is the one most open to change in the short term.

ISO Standards provide a foundation on which to build trust

Rigorous corporate and sustainability standards and third-party certification are important foundations that can chip away at consumer and stakeholder scepticism and build trust.

“I believe standards instil trust. Standards are no longer about product differentiation but about creating a uniform experience that gives your customers confidence in your products and services.” – Datuk Fadilah Baharin, Director General, Department of Standards Malaysia.


How can ISO standards help?

Maintaining a social license to operate

As powerful influencers, organisations can act as agents for societal change. The ISO 26000 publication, Guidance on Social Responsibility – helps organisations understand the principles of SR, and addresses questions like, what SR means, the types of issues an organisation needs to address, and best practice.

Ethical Environmental Behaviour

More consumers are selecting products that are produced respecting environmental standards. The ISO 14000 family of standards provides practical tools for organisations of all kinds to manage their environmental responsibilities.

Food Fraud & Food Safety

Food supply chains are complex, creating more opportunities for criminals to practise food fraud and affect food safety. The ISO 22000 Food Safety Management System helps organisations produce safe food and gain the trust of customers.

Inspire a customer-centric culture

The quality of a product is about whether or not it meets customer requirements. The ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System redefines quality by changing focus from adhering to product specifications and requirements to meeting customers’ expectations and satisfaction.

Prevent Corruption

ISO 37001, Anti-bribery management systems – is designed to help organisations implement effective measures to prevent and address bribery, and instil a culture of honesty, transparency and integrity.

Proactively Protect Customer Data

Securing third party data is a legal imperative. The ISO/IEC 27000 family of standards helps organisations keep information assets secure. ISO/IEC 27001:2013 is the best-known standard in the family providing requirements for an information security management system (ISMS).

Deliver transparency in products

Millennials are front and centre of the ethically conscious consumer trend. The ISO 20400:2017 Standard can be used to improve supply chain transparency. Embedding sustainability requirements has been shown to cause a so-called green bullwhip effect, whereby they become a signal that then transfers vertically down a supply chain from buyer to distributor to assembler to manufacturer.

In Conclusion

In addition to offering ISO standards training and consulting services, Risk ZA has key expertise in Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) Management Systems, which are essential controls for corporate success and relationships of trust with customers and stakeholders.

For more information or guidance on which ISO standard(s) and services would best suit the needs of your organisation, please email Risk ZA at or contact us on 0861 Risk ZA / +27 (0) 31 569 5900.

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