Why South Africa has to move beyond low-level compliance on sustainability reporting
Around the world, the Corona pandemic’s dire effect has posed new, hard questions on how corporates tackle and deal with risk management, and what impact does an approach to finding solutions impact societies these corporate companies operate in. On September 22, the World Economic Forum (WEF) caught the attention of the world when it released a set of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) metrics, aimed at the acceleration of convergence with regard to bodies that work within the sustainability reporting space.
The metrics, under a report titled: “Measuring Stakeholder Capitalism: Towards Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation,” were put together by WEF with the assistance of some of the world’s big auditing firms. The metrics resonate in both the developed and developing world, more so with the latter where corporate citizens such as Ngubane are ready and willing to assist their core target audiences and clients in unpacking what sustainability reporting entails, and what is required to be on par with best practices when it comes to its implementation.
Clients want solutions when it comes to a detailed corporate reporting system, a system that takes into account both the financial and social responsibilities aspects of doing business, ethically and responsibly – an area that Ngubane is passionate about as it equally obsesses about results.
The ideal goal Ngubane would like to set, and ultimately attain, is to see a common reporting system that is not only relevant to South Africa, but cuts across the African continent, thus making attending to ESG matters for clients a business ease. Getting a system that works throughout Africa’s 54 member states may not be child’s play, but it’s an attainable goal moreover when working closely with organisations such as the African Union, and other regional bodies like the Economic Community of West African States and the Southern African Development Community.
Felicia Nomsuka, managing director at Ngubane Durban says:
“Every business has its own unique set of challenges, and how they face and tackle these challenges. That’s where the challenge of a different sets of sustainability reporting for each company comes into the fore – a fore Ngubane aims to address with an approach that it cannot be one size fits all – it’s rather a focus on curated, personalised solutions for each target audience and what that audience wants to achieve.”
Most businesses, and some governments around the world, are not well known to be accommodating when it comes to disclosure and transparency. This is where opportunity lies. This is where stakeholders need to be shown how as a company we operate, what we are about, what are our priorities when it comes to societal contributions in the environment we operate in. It is an opportunity that cannot be missed, rather be leveraged.
Nomsuka continues to ask:
“What does “measuring stakeholder capitalism” really mean? This is a question we at Ngubane answer with consistent references to what is entailed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
WEF organised the metrics around the “pillars of principles of governance, planet, people and prosperity – which makes it easier for companies to focus on non-financial disclosures reports that are focused on addressing the key issues raised at the WEF annual meeting in January. Since then, the entire global business community got kicked to the kerb by the destruction imposed by Covid-19, now it’s time to roll up sleeves and get back to the implementation of the commitments made at that meeting – incorporating the metrics into our reports without any hesitation.
Nomsuka confidently says their track record when it comes to delivery and implementation of key company objectives for clients is well documented over the past 25 years in the accounting and auditing spaces. “Based on that, the immediate implementation required after WEF’s January meeting is one we at Ngubane are equal to the task to, and we can do that beyond South Africa’s borders. The aim is really to get our clients accelerated, on par, with their international business community counterparts.”
Ngubane is aware shareholders want to see a positive balance sheet; stakeholders want answers – a fine balance we can handle with a fine comb. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of WEF, was quoted by the organisation’s website saying: “Having companies accepting, not only to measure but also to report on, their environmental and social responsibility will represent a sea of change in economic history.” That is the history Ngubane wants to ensure its various target audiences and clients are part of and remembered for the positive part they played.