Today marks World Environment Day to celebrate biodiversity and the importance of nature to life. However, we commemorate this day during a global pandemic and therefore many people will be celebrating the day indoors or virtually, not fully enjoying the joys that nature brings to biodiversity.
When various countries around the world announced containment measures such as lockdowns, quarantines, and curfews to help contain the spread of the virus, this inadvertently led to restricted public movement except for essential workers. In celebrating this day, we need to step back and assess the positive impact of restricted movement on nature.
Firstly, restricted movement meant fewer vehicles on the road and significantly less air travel which translates to reduced pollution and car accidents; with fewer people in public places we saw refreshing videos of wild animals roaming the streets. In national parks and game farms, you can drive for days without seeing a wild cat such as a lion, yet we saw videos of a pride of lions snoozing in the middle of the road. Some marveled at seeing fish in rivers or lakes they thought did not have such species. In some countries reports were abuzz about visibility of blue skies without the regular polluted air. This clean environment is cause for celebration albeit for a short period of time, before we go back to our regular activities in the new normal. It also demonstrates that, with a certain level of discipline we can minimise greenhouse gas emissions.
Vodacom launched its purpose-led journey in 2019 focusing on three main sustainability pillars namely; Digital Society, Inclusion for All and Planet. Under the Planet pillar we advocate for sustainable energy, water and waste management. We are fully aware that as our operations grow, so is the risk of more water and energy consumption including waste generation.
In South Africa, this day is located in youth month and therefore the youth are encouraged to engage meaningfully in conversations pertaining to environmental sustainability.
“As we look back at our environmental footprint, we are encouraged to do more. We started with small steps to reduce our greenhouse emissions by investing in renewables. A more recent example of this is the installation of solar panels on a base station controller in Randburg which cost in the region of R500 000 and is yielding cost savings of R120 000 and carbon reductions by over 44 tons of CO2 for the financial year ending March 2020”, says Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer of External Affairs at Vodacom.
“Last year, we acquired a stake in IoT.nxt, a company that specialises in global software development and offers Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for businesses worldwide helping them drive efficiency and competitive advantage through real-time data insights and tools to rapidly implement change. Through this acquisition, we have started deploying intelligent controls to base stations enabling remote monitoring and management to reduce energy consumption. Another major achievement would be the Cape Town regional head office receiving a Green Star Existing Building Performance Rating by Green Building Council SA which has yielded massive electricity savings and has immensely reduced our carbon footprint” adds Netshitenzhe.
To create a cleaner future, Vodacom has created a waste hierarchy in decision-making and management which prioritises reusing and recycling of redundant equipment. We recycle batteries, we have introduced paper bags in our stores and we recycle our office waste, some of which is used as manure for our gardens. Similarly, with the Cape Town water crisis, we have learnt a lot about water saving. We have water harvesting techniques and use this water in our gardens. From the Cape Town learnings, we have started deploying water saving taps in our bathrooms.
Environmental education, awareness and good practices are vital when creating a culture of sustainable living. To create this culture, Vodacom has partnered with schools and other organisations while supporting various initiatives to create a better future for communities and markets in which it operates in.
Vodacom remains mindful of the potential threats to biodiversity and strives to protect the biodiversity within the countries it operates in. To broaden our knowing, we also have a partnership with World Wildlife Fund for Nature and other environmental agencies such as the Endangered Wildlife Trust in conservation efforts to protect endangered species.
“As a company that is walking the journey to be a purpose-led organisation, we strongly believe in connecting for a better future. With over 115.5 million people across our markets connected to the digital society, we remain committed to improving the lives of the next 100 million customers while halving our environmental impact to ensure a sustainable future for all,” says Netshitenzhe.