The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) for South Africa was released on 22 November and the encouraging results are that our corporates are making significant strides in reducing emissions.

The CDP is a global initiative that requests the JSE’s top 100 to provide information on the carbon intensity of their operations as well as their plans to reduce these. Companies are then scored and ranked according to the progress they are making against these targets.

South Africa, by signing the Copenhagen Accord, committed to reduce its carbon emissions by 34% by 2020. With the top 100 companies (reported via the CDP), and Eskom, making up nearly two-thirds of the country’s estimated 500-million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, it is clear that much of the emissions reduction strategy needs to take place within this subset.

However it is essential that all businesses make efforts to reduce emissions, irrespective of who the major culprits are.  We can’t just sit back and wait for others to take action, it is a responsibility that falls upon all of us.  In fact, companies reporting via the CDP are starting to request emissions data from their suppliers (irrespective of size) as they start to realise the pressures they can exert on suppliers in terms of their sphere of influence.

Emissions are typically broken down into Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3. Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from a company’s operations. Scope 2 is electricity consumed for these operations and Scope 3 are indirect emissions associated with the business, often emanating from both up and downstream within the supply chain.

According to the CDP report, the largest emitter remains Eskom, which voluntarily participated in the project this year. Its emissions exceed everyone else with 232-million tonnes a year. This represents 45% of the country’s entire emissions.  As business however, we can assist Eskom in emissions reduction by reducing our energy use.

The reality is that at present, Eskom has a ‘dirty’ energy strategy as it is heavily invested in coal fired power stations. Until renewable energy is seriously adopted the overall emissions are going to struggle to change greatly.

However, Eskom produces electricity on demand so the less we use, the less it needs to generate.  With a growing economy and a constrained grid Eskom will continue to produce as much as it can in the short term. However, through efficiencies we should be able to reduce the carbon intensity of product produced, irrespective of Eskom’s strategy.  As international carbon trade tariffs get introduced, this will become increasingly important.

Six companies qualified for the gold-standard Carbon Performance Leadership Index this year. These were Anglo American PLC, Barloworld, FirstRand Limited, Gold Fields Ltd, Mondi PLC, and Woolworths. This means they have verified their emissions and have serious plans underway to reduce them.  We congratulate these organisations as they are an example of the kind of journey that we should all be embarking upon.

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