Taking stock of business requirements and reporting on active participation, have become a vital part of scaling up the value for any successfully-driven business, says African infrastructure solutions provider GIBB sustainability consultant Lowrens van der Merwe.
He tells Engineering News that, in an increasingly competitive market, companies continuously seek new ways to improve performance, protect reputational assets and win shareholder/stakeholder trust, therefore, sustainability reporting has emerged as a common practice of the twenty-first century business, employed by companies worldwide.
Consulting engineering firm governing body, Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa), recently released its own compulsory Sustainability Reporting Framework for its members, which was developed in collaboration with GIBB as a major South African black-owned consulting engineering firm, states Van der Merwe.
GIBB GM Dr Urishanie Govender was appointed to advise on the sustainability reporting approach and best practice guidelines to be applied in developing the reporting framework. He indicated that the importance of sustainability reporting is growing as it aids industry in identifying the crucial changes required to achieve the triple bottom line.
“Globally, sustainability reporting, particularly within the consulting engineering field, is becoming a requirement and Cesa realised the need to be on par with this trend. Based on this, GIBB supported Cesa to develop a sustainability reporting guideline and process for its members,” reports Van der Merwe.
Van der Merwe states that GIBB developed the guideline against the backdrop of the internationally-recognised and widely used sustainability reporting guideline, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). This informed the format of the Cesa Sustainability Reporting Framework standard and its adaptation to the local engineering industry.
“It was imperative for us to look at current sustainability trends in engineering, through considering what the International Federation of Consulting Engineers international reports and guidelines indicate, as well as other current issues which highlight the impact of, and the need for, sustainability in the built environment. These gave us some insight on key issues considered pertinent to the industry and how best to report on them,” states Van der Merwe.
He explains that the next step in developing a reporting standard that would best meet the needs of local engineering firms involved in the identification of key sustainability issues affecting Cesa and its members. The result of this was identification of ten key issues member firms have to report on, Van der Merwe continues, five of which were values already entrenched within Cesa as a response to sustainability matters. The ten issues now form part of the compulsory sustainability report prepared by all member firms as part of annual declarations to Cesa, states Van der Merwe.
Sustainability policy, material issues, stakeholder engagement, sustainability objectives and targets, awareness, education, economic and political certainty, job creation, eradication of corruption, and responsible development were included in the list of Cesa sustainability indicators.
In addition to contributing to the development of the framework, Van der Merwe emphasises that GIBB also supported Cesa in developing the Cesa members’ sustainability reporting training material and checklist aligned to the framework and used at Cesa national training courses. Cesa manager of education and training Pummy Mzolo says: “This course is offered under the auspices of Cesa’s School of Consulting Engineering and we are very proud to be facilitating the course which will greatly benefit member firms.” The training is purely based on Cesa’s reporting requirements and the current social, economic and environmental elements impacting on the engineering industry.
Van der Merwe reports that there are a host of indicators available to report on organisational sustainability, such as the 91 GRI indicators, which can be daunting to most professionals especially without some prior exposure or guidance to sustainability reporting.
Cesa CEO Chris Campbell states: “Cesa has opted to take a phased approach when requesting members to submit sustainability reports, allowing members to get acquainted with the requirements thereof over a three-year period.”
Van der Merwe concludes by stating that “although the professional sustainability circle in the country is relatively small, it is growing at an impressive rate. We are seeing more companies from various industries taking interest and getting involved in the sustainability conversation”.