Sustainable Development & CSR

Working towards Sustainable Development in Africa – written by Charlene Hewat, CEO

Sustainable development is a term that is widely used, but the question is how many people actually know what it really means?

Sustainable development was initially defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland, 1987). This definition is now widely adopted worldwide and is something that Environment Africa promotes and engages itself in.

Environment Africa, a Southern African Not for profit organisation has worked to ensure corporate engagement through various activities in the name of sustainable development with a focus on community livelihood improvement, environmental governance and biodiversity. To strengthen the partnerships with the corporate sector, Environment Africa has signed an MOU with the Business Council for Sustainable Development Zimbabwe (BCSDZ) and is working on Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives as well as a focus on Integrated Waste Management.  We promote African solutions to African Challenges.

Environment Africa advocates the interlinkage of the 4 pillars of Sustainable Development:  Policy/Power, Economic, Social and Biophysical in a manner that encompasses community involvement and participation.  However, the Economic pillar of sustainable development seems to take prominence, especially in developing countries where the natural environment is often devastated in order to find short term economic gains

Environment Africa Sustainable Development

Four Pillars of Sustainable Development

Environment Africa has developed a sustainable livelihood framework based on the 4 pillars of Sustainable Development which we incorporate in our community projects.  We are encouraging the government of National Unity to adopt a Sustainable Development Framework for Zimbabwe which would enable our country to utilize it’s natural and human resources.  We are encouraged by the inclusion of the environment sustainability statement in the Government Medium Term Plan: “With regards to the current concerns about global warming, climate change and the need to ensure sustainable growth which safeguards the health of the environment, the Government has taken on board these issues with environmental sustainability being factored in as a cross cutting issue in all the Medium Term Plan (MTP) sectors.”

Under the Sustainable Development framework we are encouraging the Government, Private Sector and other organisations to incorporate Social Responsibility as a key component of their business plans and operations.  The ISO 26000 Standard on Social Responsibility is finally completed and now passed as an International standard.  ISO26000 is a guideline standard for all types of organisations on Social Responsibility issues.  For more information on ISO26000 please contact the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ).

Social responsibility has continued to become a topical issue for all sectors, the private, the public and the  government sectors as it is considered one of the key drivers to sustainable development. Social responsibility, despite the name, is not inclined to social development alone; it spans the operations of organizations internally all the way to the community or consumer level.

Being socially responsible is considered a sustainable way of doing business and most often it boils down to trust. How can the various sectors trust each other? Can business trust communities and can communities trust business to address their concerns in a manner that is beneficial for both? When looking at the corporate sector, it is important to examine the extent to which they are integrating social and environmental concerns throughout their business.

Some of the social concerns currently being experienced in Zimbabwe, as is the case in other developing countries, include poverty, HIV/ AIDS; gender inequality; limited access to health, sanitation and education facilities and food security.  It is evident that developing countries have serious social concerns in comparison to the developed world and the question in the developing countries is how to include these concerns within the business frame work and still make a profit at the end of the day.

Internationally, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the private sector is being mainstreamed by many corporates and in many countries, a CSR plan is a mandatory requirement in business from Government level and companies are required to submit an annual CSR audit. There are a number of companies in Zimbabwe who have adopted CSR and have partnered with Environment Africa to implement some of the 7 core areas of SR.  Some of  the activities include:

  • Development and implementation of a CSR Policy
  • Looking at the company’s carbon footprint and offsetting carbon emissions
  • Partnerships on CSR projects and programmes

CSR should be an integral part of any business today, it is not  about ‘philanthropy’ or cheque book PR, it is about commitment, involvement and action. Get involved today and help rebuild our beautiful country Zimbabwe.

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