Top CFOs shared how women empowerment is a good starting point for starting your ESG journey.
ESG in organisations, which often has been given the unflattering title of greenwashing, has in truth been embraced by many businesses and organisations. This sweeping term does the work that is being done in the field a noticeable injustice.
At the CFO ESG Summit on 31 August, CFOs learnt that the key to successful sustainability is not just moving the strategy from planning to implementation, but the impact these initiatives are having on business. Some solutions are even providing increased productivity and cost savings.
“ESG is not a sideshow: it needs to impact the way we do business,” said Tendani Sikhwivhilu during a panel discussion, CFO at Bidvest Financial Services. “The measurement of the success needs to extend beyond the financial aspect, to the KPIs executives are held accountable for.”
“It’s not just about measuring statistics, it’s about the human story,” he added.
Focusing on what’s already there
Many programmes are focusing on the untapped potential within organisations – women. Tendani believes that ensuring that more women are empowered is key to the success of not just ESG, but for the business as well. The real problem that his team is currently focusing on, is supporting women in business.
They are doing this by partnering with an organisation called Sorbet-Preneur, which supports women who want to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit with mentoring and coaching.
This is where Tendani believes the true value that ESG plays lies. “One success story is worth more than 10 statistics: it’s about not losing sight of what the problem is that we are trying to solve,” he said.
Finding the right purpose
He is not the only CFO who is focused on the development of women. Bothwell Mazurara, CFO at Kumba Iron Ore, knew that, in order to develop women in the industry, he first needed to focus his attention on making the working environment safe.
Bothwell’s priority is facing the gender-based violence pandemic in the country head-on, specifically in the environments in which Kumba operates.
He started by having conversations with men in the organisation about holding each other accountable for their behaviour. During the panel discussion, Bothwell explained that these conversations, where policies were communicated and feedback was encouraged, started creating an environment that was psychologically safe for women.
To fight against GBV, in November last year, Anglo American launched their Living with Dignity Hub – a programme that includes a network of safe havens and centres where women can gain access to the support they may need. This includes protection, support and assistance.
Bothwell explained that the key differentiator of the Hub is its provision of first-responder support, including victim-led comprehensive safety, medical, legal, and psychosocial support to victims and their families. While it is an additional confidential channel for reporting incidents in Anglo American, the Hub operates independently from other processes and systems across the company under the auspices of an independent ambassador.
The company has also extended its reach by championing the implementation of law and policy advocacy reforms by partnering with government, civil society and academia to bring about systemic change to end GBV. More recently, Kumba Iron Ore has been working with other mining companies and the Minerals Council of South Africa in establishing a national partnership between the council and the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA) in the National Prosecution Authority’s (NPA). SOCA runs Thuthuzela Care Centres, one-stop facilities that offer survivors access to medical, legal, and psychosocial support.
Putting the right measures in place
South African Rewards Association Executive Committee member Martin Hopkins said he is working on how ESG can be included in the rewards of executives as one driver of performance.
He said that you can put measures in place for short-term incentives. Policies are also a useful tool that provide more of a solid guarantee. He added that ESG policies and practices are influencing better behaviour and ethics in business.
Martin said that the interdependence between business activities and a methodical approach to ESG ensure that “we don’t lose sight of the fact that we are all human beings and we work in societies”.
Using ESG frameworks and policies will play a role in leaders holding each other accountable for using the economic part of business, in the world, in our country, to do more and more, he said.
Martin ended by saying that the right conversations and actions across businesses are starting: they might not be perfect, but they will gather momentum.