Going for green: opportunities for women to build a sustainable future

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Going for green: opportunities for women to build a sustainable future

The celebration of Women’s Month in SA is a chance for us to reflect on the valuable role of women in our communities, companies, families, and society.
Business people working in high-end modern office
Thuli Kumalo

Thuli Kumalo

Portfolio Manager: STANLIB Credit Alternatives

Key takeouts
  • Women in SA have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get involved and collectively help to build the future in a sustainable and responsible manner.
  • The South African government’s journey to rebuild an ailing economy has been slow, but many recent initiatives are showing signs of progress.
  • Worldwide, the collective efforts of nations, corporates and consumers to address the impact of climate change have contributed to establish a more sustainable approach to capital formation.
  • There is a growing list of positive social impact and infrastructure development and investment opportunities which will ultimately benefit the country and future generations.
  • These infrastructure development programmes will provide many new job opportunities for women to embrace and specifically exciting career for investment professionals.

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As a mother, and aunt to many young people, I believe it is another opportunity to step back and consider how we can shape the world that we would want to leave behind.

 

Participating through our careers to truly rebuild SA

I am fortunate to work in a company, and an industry, that despite being historically male-dominated offers many opportunities for women, who are qualified chartered accountants, and investment professionals like me. It is an industry which is actively involved in investment activities that not only aim to grow and nurture the financial well-being of South Africans but also align with some of my core beliefs and values about protecting our environment and building a better future.

 

We all have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to influence how the industry and government tackle infrastructure backlogs in a sustainable and responsible manner.

 

There are a few noteworthy examples in government and industry which we can support to ensure that we transition toward a better future for all of us.

 

Government: initiatives showing seriousness about energy reforms

 SA’s electricity grid is ageing and unstable and we are among the 20 largest carbon emitters globally. Acknowledging this reality, the government signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2016, ensuring that, along with approximately 190 other countries worldwide, SA will drive lower carbon emissions and limit increases in global temperatures. Government is showing a renewed focus on emissions reduction, energy reforms, generation capacity, and dealing with Eskom’s major infrastructure challenges and backlog.

 

While policy implementation has been frustratingly slow, in recent months government has begun to push-start implementation on many fronts. Some of these actions include:

  • Launching the Renewable Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP), to transition SA from coal to renewable energy sources and bring additional megawatts (MW) through private sector investment in wind, solar and gas, among other technologies (renewable energy) onto the grid.
  • The successful implementation of the first five bidding rounds of the REIPPP programme, and the commencement of the Round 6 bid window, allowing for further generation capacity.
  • The launching of the emergency Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP), aimed at stabilising the ailing electricity system and reducing reliance on diesel power.
  • The proposed amendments to Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA), to facilitate independent renewable energy self-generation by the private sector and to increase the self-generation limit to 100 MW.
  • The gazetting of the Integrated Resource Plan, a road map for mixed energy generation for the entire country.
  • The gazetting of a range of Sustainable Infrastructure Development Projects (SIDS), to fast-track the tedious approval processes for over 250 energy, housing, transport, water and sanitation projects.
  • The proposed amendments to Regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act, to empower regulated entities such as pension funds to invest in long-dated infrastructure and renewable energy projects.

 

These initiatives are significantly positive for much-needed infrastructure roll-out and energy reform in SA and a transition to lower carbon environment.

 

Industry: encouraging sustainable and impact investing

In response, we have taken the opportunity to expand our responsible and infrastructure investing activities through the STANLIB Khanyisa Impact Fund and the STANLIB Infrastructure Investments Fund. These funds aim to involve critical stakeholders (institutional investors, banks, development finance institutions, industry leaders, government, private and public entities) to find, unlock and fund infrastructure development and positive social impact opportunities in SA.

 

More broadly, STANLIB, as a responsible corporate citizen, has incorporated the consideration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles into investment philosophies and processes for a number of years. It has, along with other players in the asset management industry, demonstrated a commitment to sustainable investing by signing up to the United Nation’s Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and endorsing the Code for Responsible Investment in South Africa (CRISA).

 

These evolving industry and government initiatives are starting to translate into a growing list of positive social impact and infrastructure development and investment opportunities which will be ultimately beneficial for the asset management industry, the country and future generations. They also create exciting career and investment opportunities for investment professionals – including women.

 

Women inclusivity: we are winning but more can be done

The current generation of women is fortuitously positioned to shape and actively participate in the infrastructure roll-out programme. My fervent wish is that when the much-spoken-about infrastructure-led economic recovery is ignited across SA that many more women will be ready to serve and have a meaningful voice on company boards, investment and executive committees.

 

Reflecting on my own journey, I was part of a trickle of women who came into this industry a few decades ago. My hope then and now is that the trickle grows into a deluge of female investment professionals and career opportunities for women. Company executives, government and human resource practitioners can still do more to create a more inclusive industry in which more women are able to participate in this fresh round of infrastructure development and the positive transformation of our society for generations to come.

 

This article appears in the Q3 August 2021 edition of our StandPoint publication. Click here to download a copy of the full publication.

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