The Greening the Future Awards remind us of our responsibility to save tomorrow today — for generations to come. There is no doubt that the recipients of the awards remain a shining light in the communities many moons after the awards have been presented. It is important, though, to see the awards as a pointer, not an end in itself. There is still a deep gap in society’s awareness about the impact of environmental inaction.
There is no doubt that greening is receiving global attention, if this week’s agenda for the G8 meeting is anything to go by.
In our country, there is growing consensus that we can no longer just talk, we must act.
There is no Big Bang solution that will deal effectively with all environmental ills. To make a significant impact, sustained individual and collective action must be mobilised. As corporates, we need to refocus on improving our production methods to match developmental best practice, rather than simply producing sustainability reports to be compliant. We need to internalise green production processes as the way to do business.
We urge the Greening the Future Awards to reward radical green leadership which aligns “green success” with shareholders’ interests instead of viewing sustainable production as a barrier to profitability. Companies participating in the awards are among a handful of organisations that have environmental policies. The challenge lies in making this a standard business practice, rather than an exception.
While business does not always support punitive measures against those refusing to act responsibly, implementing “the stick” approach might be the only answer if we are to meet our international environmental commitments.
Research has shown that after decades of environment-speak, very few self-regulatory initiatives yield desired results — the refusal of the United States to sign the Kyoto Protocol is a good example of how you cannot always rely on volunteerism, even in the face of a global crisis. In this context, green taxes should be welcomed, so that environmental factors become part of fiscal planning and greener business environments.
Government leadership is key — the existing laws need to be activated through enforcement. The establishment of the “green scorpions” must be supported with the necessary resources to make them a serious institution — like the National Prosecuting Authority — capable of enforcing current and future environmental legislation.
But no laws can legislate consciousness. It starts with each of us, and how we manage waste or energy in our homes. The Indalo Yethu Campaign calls us to action as corporates, government, communities, individuals and as a nation to save tomorrow today. The Greening the Future Awards beckon us to respond to this call with practical action.
Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is the chief executive of Tshirundu Communications and the chairman of the Indalo Yethu Environmental Campaign