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: EY report – ENOUGH (is enough!).
EY published a report about corporate sustainability and those committed to the corporate sustainability movement. It is an insightful read into how corporate sustainability and the professionals in this field are resilient, adaptable, and innovative; but are actually ring-fenced from actually doing what needs to be done – help companies transform before it’s too late.
Companies aren’t helping themselves address sustainability effectively. Instead sustainability professionals:
- in a company are small in number and function compared to the magnitude of change and impact they are supposed to deliver (set up to fail?)
- spend most of their time convincing and re-convincing leaders of the business case (shouldn’t this be evident to leaders by now, or it is that leaders have massive cognitive dissonance?)
- are in one function/department and sustainability for the company is not the ‘job’ of all professionals in the company (so how serious are companies, really?)
The private sector is the most economically powerful and environmentally impactful bloc on the planet. Corporate sustainability is about survival of our biosphere (all living beings), yet companies have set themselves up to fail.
This began way before when students learned about economics and management theory and the false concept that a company is a machine (not an organism) and that it operates independently of the planet and society. After centuries of putting this in practice, enter the hot mess we are in today – environmentally, socially and economically.
So what is a sustainable company? The report calls out that:
- economic activity must stay within sustainable limits. know your environmental and social limits across the entire value chain. (Think about the Planetary boundaries, Kate Bosworth’s The Doughnut).
- industry value chain impact should use planetary boundaries so it is clear how an industry is impacts which ecosystems
- sustainability is the culture and values of the organization, not the remit of the sustainability function
- sustainability professionals holding themselves to higher codes, refusing mediocrity and half measures, and seeking strength in their collective. It is on us to create the movement and drive change.
My two-cents: This quote from the report says it all: ‘But now that the world is 20 years away from global catastrophe, the worst thing corporate sustainability can do, is mask the extent of the problem’.
EU Combats Greenwashing
The EU is worried about companies greenwashing their sustainability credentials to look more responsible than they actually are to attract investors/money. The European Securities & Markets Authority establish criteria for national authorities to supervise investment funds with sustainability features.
ESG investments funds globally outperformed non-ESG share portfolios during the peak of C-19 (Blackrock, 2020), globally ESG investing grow double in size 2020-2021. ESG funds account for 10% of global assets, nearly 60% of this money managed from Europe and ESG funds will grow to over 30% globally by 2025; (Reuters, 2021, Bloomberg, 2021).
My two cents: The SDG investment opportunity is estimated at USD12 trillion in four areas: food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, health and wellbeing (BCSD, 2017) – with most of the opportunity in emerging markets. Some food for thought on your investment decisions.
Universal access to energy for all Africans is possible
The latest International Energy Agency report on Africa’s energy is optimistic about the continent’s energy future (we are doing better than we think). It presents the pathway in which African countries can achieve universal access to modern energy by 2030. Today 43% of Africans lack access to electricity.
Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda, are on track towards universal access to modern energy for all by 2030. These countries are doing this by extending national grids, building mini-grids and standalone systems, mainly solar, which are most viable for rural and remote areas.
The report presents an exciting energy future driven by home-grown renewable energy solutions and industry. It highlights:
- energy efficiency in infrastructure, price affordability, building codes and standards, green manufacturing and efficient technologies.
- electricity will underpin our development with solar leading the way
- leveraging geothermal renewable energy generation
- oil and gas producing countries to start looking more at this industry meeting their own domestic needs in the short term
- the continent also holds 40% of global reserves of critical minerals needed for renewable technologies
- this renewables trajectory will mean our overall contribution to greenhouse gas emissions will remain minimal
The report also reminds Africans that we must not forget, climate change adaptation – Africans will be the most impacted by climate change. Financing for a just transition, is still the elephant in the room.
My two-cents: I am reminded that at last the under-development of +50 countries is now a strength, a blessing and a teachable moment on how development should’ve be done – inclusively, respectfully.
Kenya’s Sustainable Energy Summit
KenGen and partners recently hosted a summit, the first of its kind to raise discussion on sustainable energy and home grown solutions for Kenya and Africa’s energy challenges.
Kenya is already a global and African leader in renewable energy. With +80% energy from renewable sources.
At independence, Kenya used thermal power reliant on coal (which was imported). In the mid-1980s the thermal infrastructure has reached its limits, and although hydropower was now an energy source it was in low supply. 1980s – early 2000s energy supply and access was the lowest ever.
Kenya introduced geothermal energy in the early 2000s – before renewables were ‘in’. With this shift, In less than 10 years the country has moved from 35% of Kenyans with access to electricity to nearly 80% of Kenyans. (Sustainable Energy Summit, 2022)
KenGen is the first and only state agency to commit to the UN’s Business Ambition for 1.50C, a global coalition of business leaders, governments and NGOs, to set science-based net-zero aligned emissions reductions targets.
Nation Media Group Chair, Wifred Kibor decried (lack of) leadership in prioritizing Africa’s energy security. The summit was a starting point for concerted and collaborative engagement in intra-African, home-grown and shared solutions to the continent’s energy needs.
According to the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Energy Monicah Juma, the cost of electricity in Kenya is still exorbitant (at household and business level). Kenya’s electricity was the 4th most expensive in Africa, and higher than the global average cost of electricity. However, the first tranche of the 33% reduction promised by the government in Dec 2021, was implemented in Mar 2022… then Russia’s war happened!
Despite this, like the IEA Africa Outlook report highlighted, electricity will be the foundation of Africa’s energy future. Today in Kenya, it is cheaper to cook with electricity than with gas. And yes, Kenya is on track to achieving universal access to modern energy in 8 years (2030).
My two-cents: I never really thought I would live to see the day when every Kenyan will have electricity. Fossil fuels use in homes, businesses and transportation may just be a thing of the past in the next decade.