The rise of green economy

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Outlining the various ways in which corporate South Africa has engaged the emerging green global economy, Breakthrough: Corporate South Africa in a Green Economy, edited by Rhodes alumnus Professor Godwell Nhamo profiles the green and low carbon economy landscape in South Africa and interfaces it with global trends.

The book was launched at Rhodes University recently with an introduction by Prof Nhamo and keynote address by Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Murray and Roberts Chair of Environmental Education and Director, Environmental Learning Research Centre at Rhodes University.

Featuring breakthroughs from selected companies, the book comes as the second in a series that is addressing global and national concerns on the green global economy agenda. The first book entitled Green Economy and Climate Mitigation: Topics of Relevance to Africa was produced as part of the 17th Session of the Conference of Parties’ collaborative work carried out by the Institute of Global Dialogue, the Africa Institute of South Africa and Unisa’s Institute for Corporate Citizenship. The book is published by the Africa Institute of South Africa.

Comprising seven parts, Breakthrough: Corporate South Africa in a Green Economy provides insights into the Green Economy Landscape, with a view on both the international and national perspectives, and an overview of present different sector initiatives namely Mining and Energy (Part II), Banking and Insurance (Part III), Forest and Paper (Part IV), Industrial (Part V) and Retailing and Aviation (Part VI). The last part is made up of a single chapter dealing with Emerging Issues and Way Forward.

Defining a green economy as comprising efforts to move from a resource intensive environment to a resource efficient environment, Prof Nhamo, who was one of Prof Sisitka’s first PhD scholars at Rhodes, explained.

He said that while many challenges remain, certain companies in South Africa have made an effort to reform their policies and he wanted to outline these in the book. African scholars have a significant role to play in documenting these efforts, he said, because “an American will not write a story about Africa the way an African would.”

“We need a group of African scholars that are international in their own right to write about Africa. Environmentalism goes beyond an idea of compliance, it is an ethics issue and we need people who can write about it from an African perspective,” he said.

Keynote speaker Prof Lotz-Sisitka said the concept of the green economy rising has many implications on the future and quality of life of societies around the world, requiring individuals to develop criticality and to carefully chart a way forward which creates a green economy that does not exacerbate existing problems in the name of sustainability.

“We have to be able to differentiate between what is greenwash and the type of green economy we need and want, which relentlessly pursues equity, social justice, democracy and environmental sustainability at the same time,” she said.

“The rise of the green economy is part of a much bigger story – a story of global transition occurring not only in South Africa but all over the planet towards a more sustainable and just future for ourselves as humans and for all life forms too. We are all part of this bigger story,” she said, citing efforts in Chile, Argenita, Denmark, Sweden and England.

In her research Prof Lotz-Sisitka is concerned mainly with the implications of these shifts on Africa. “We are sitting with persistent environmental problems and continuities of poverty. The green economy needs to be a different kind of economy that can address the challenges on a continent. All over the world states, education institutions and corporations reflect the struggle to find ways to address the complex set of challenges,” she said.

“We don’t need incremental change, we need transformational change. Breakthrough: Corporate South Africa in a Green Economy articulates the framework for the future. This is not next year’s problem that can be looked at another time; this needs to be engaged with now and this book provides ways of engaging with this and thinking through ways of engaging with the necessary transformations in our society,” she said.

By Sarah-Jane Bradfield 

Source:  Communications and Marketing