This newsletter gives you highlights of selected sustainability insights that were, perhaps, too long (you) didn’t read (TLDR) or there’s just too much out there to read. The highlights presented cover insights gleaned from a global, regional (African), and national (Kenyan) perspective. Happy reading!

Global: Sustainability Frameworks for Organisations

Previously, business organisations were required to voluntarily self-report their progress on sustainability adoption to build credibility and show their commitment towards sustainable development values and principles. Various frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), UN Global Compact Network 10 principles and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) can be employed by organisations across the board to report their sustainability progress voluntarily.

However, mandatory enforcement of sustainability reporting seems to have caught on. In January 2021, The European Commission introduced the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive 2021, a law that requires large corporations and listed SMEs in the region (over 50,000) to adopt a standardised sustainability reporting framework starting from Jan 2023. This directive differs from the EU’s 2014 Non Financial Reporting Directive as the new format requires submitted data to be audited. The international Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) international sustainability standards Board ISSB launched two inaugural industry-specific sustainability reporting standards, S1 that requires firms to report their sustainability risks and opportunities and S2 which is an extension of S1 that requires firms to report on transition risks and opportunities. Furthermore, all major global economies including the UK, the US, South Africa, China and Singapore have all followed suit and entrenched standardised sustainability reporting in law.

My two cents: Sustainability reporting, whether complex or simplified, is becoming the norm for any company, especially if you expect to have investors, lenders (who are not your family, friends)! If you haven’t already, the sooner your company starts reporting the better. Your first report will be a challenge, it gets better – and importantly, your business’ operations and strategy will benefit more than you would have imagined.

AFRICA: Regenerating Africa’s Economy and Forests

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) asserts that fair international trade policies contribute to sustainable development by creating jobs, fostering efficient use of resources and stimulating entrepreneurship to lift people out of poverty. In recognition of this, Africans are already pushing for an African free trade area to boost intra-African trade. A series of talks on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) have been already held to create the infrastructure and institutions to make the agreement work. The latest discussions highlighted the importance of engaging the private sector in actualizing the FTA and the involvement of SMEs and women and also their empowerment in enabling more cross-border business. The AfCFTA initiative in conjunction with other entities such as the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry has a series of programmes to aid women and SMEs in expanding their capacity under AfCFTA such as the Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade and Export Training Programme for SMEs.  

Preserving Africa’s Forests

Of all the seven continents in the world, Africa has the largest forested land mass. The good thing is that 90% of African forests are natural. However, they face a huge threat from over-exploitation of timber and illegal logging, agricultural expansion and mining and urbanisation. Between 2015 and 2020, Africa lost 4.41 million hectares of trees to deforestation annually. Some of the suggested ways to address this issue has been:

  • Controlled logging: DRC’s authorities have created timber parks along border points to control logging and even collect revenues for the country.  
  • Conservations initiatives: the Africa Forest Forum creates awareness on the importance of forests for the environment and even growth of economies. 
  • Eco tourism: natural forests make valuable tourist attractions that give economic value to local communities 
  • Sustainable exploitation: a number of African indigenous trees have cosmetic and medicinal value that can be exploited economically with greater value than logging.  

My two cents: African communities should be empowered to manage local natural resources. In the case of forests, it would be more appropriate to empower local communities to manage forests for direct economic gain and also empower them to protect them.

KENYA: Internal Security CS to Allow Integration and Resettlement of Refugees

For several decades now, Kenya has remained as one of the most politically stable countries in the East and Central Africa region. Whenever one of the neighbouring countries faces political upheaval, Kenya hosts the refugees. South Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia are just a few. And as tensions rise in Ethiopia and Sudan, Kenya may once again be hosting additional refugees. For a country already facing high population, drought and hunger, an influx of refugees puts a strain on already strained environment and resources. Refugees in Kenya are highly dependent on humanitarian relief and are seen to pose a threat to the internal security of the country. 

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees  (UNHCR) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have been advocating for African countries to review their refugee policies. The key idea has been to review policies and laws to reduce refugees’ over reliance on humanitarian aid and allow them to engage in economic activities in the host countries. Kenya does not allow refugees to reside outside camps, operate businesses or even seek employment locally. However, this is bound to change. Kenya’s Internal Security Cabinet Secretary, Kithure Kindiki, has promised to allow integration and resettlement of refugees who are camped along the country’s borders such as Kakuma, Hagadera and Dadaab. 

My two cents: Kenya can embrace refugees from all walks of life for humanitarian and other reasons. When allowed to integrate, refugees bring with them cultural diversity, productivity in new skills, compliment the job market and bring in fresh ideas and skills.