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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

SAB Beyond Awards celebrate commitment to proactive solutions

SA corporates and SMEs won accolades at the SAB Beyond Awards on Tuesday.

Sustainability is more than just a buzzword or a box-ticking exercise; it calls for proactive solutions in a rapidly changing climate environment.

This was a shared sentiment among winners of the inaugural South African Breweries (SAB) Beyond Sustainability Awards hosted in partnership with ESG Africa.

Held on Tuesday at SAB headquarters in Bryanston, Gauteng, the awards ceremony celebrated the sustainability initiatives of SA corporates and SMEs.

Speaking at the event, Minister of Small Business Development Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams acknowledged the significance of sustainability in investment.

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“We know that environmental, social and governance (what we call ESG) is increasingly becoming an important criterion for shareholder investment,” she said.

“This is good – it will quicken our efforts to build a more dynamic and socially relevant private sector,” she added.

Sustainable victory

Tweak Carbon won the Sustainability Project of the Year Award, beating corporate giant fellow finalist Woolworths for the accolade.

Tweak Carbon founder Camille O’Sullivan said the win was a milestone for the year-old business.

“Winning the award is huge for us because we’re a new company, and we’ve only been operating for about a year, and have had our products in market for only five months,” she said.

O’Sullivan said winning against “big” industry players had instilled hope by validating her entrepreneurial pursuits.

“As an entrepreneur, everyday you doubt yourself – so winning this just means the world to me,” she said.

Minister of Small Business Development, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams hands over Sustainability Project of the Year Award to Tweak Carbon’s founder Camille O’Sullivan | Image: Supplied.

Woolies walked away with the Sustainability Development Goals Champion Award, while Sun International won the Sustainability Report of the Year Award.

Woolworths’ Head of Sustainability Feroz Koor said sustainability lies at the core of the retailer’s identity as he expressed gratitude for the nod.

“We don’t do what we do to win awards, but it’s great to [receive] validation,” he said.

ESG Manager at Sun International, Raveshni Maharaj said she appreciated the win.

“Receiving this award reflects the journey we’ve been on in terms of sustainability reporting for the last two years,” she said, explaining that the award validated the company’s improvements to sustainability reporting.

Sun International ESG Manager Raveshni Maharaj received the Sustainability Report of the Year Award. Image: Supplied.

African trailblazer

The African Trailblazer of the Year Award went to Tomorrow Matters Now (TOMA-Now) founder and CEO Dr. Jaisheila Rajput.

As the night’s most prestigious award, the accolade recognises individuals from various fields who’ve contributed significantly to advancing sustainability in Africa.

Welcoming the win, Rajput said the award signified acknowledgement of TOMA-Now’s sustainability work.

“Winning the African Trailblazer Award is incredibly exciting and heartwarming,” she said

“For me, it represents recognition of the work we’re doing [in] sustainability, green economy and impact-driven focus,” she added.

Dr. Jaisheila Rajput, founder and CEO of TOMA-Now won the African Trailblazer of the Year Award. Image: Supplied.

Not about ticking boxes

The Citizen asked the winners how businesses could ensure that “sustainability” becomes more than just a box-ticking exercise, but a long-term action project.

Feroz Koor, Woolworths, said the company had been promoting sustainability long before it became fashionable to do so.

“We didn’t do it because we wanted to tick boxes,” he told The Citizen.

Koor said sustainability is not a set of projects, but should be looked at in terms of a business’s overall impact in the world.

Rajput echoed, adding that sustainability goes beyond an organisation’s endeavours.

“It’s not about the organisation [alone], it’s about what happens across the value-chain… the spaces where value is created and impact is driven,” she told The Citizen.

“The idea behind [sustainability] is that every organisation sees the value that it brings,” she said.

“One key element to being sustainable as an organisation is to take your clients on the journey with you,” said Tweak Carbon’s Camille O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan said it’s still difficult for consumers to contribute towards sustainability “because they have no idea what has a high footprint [and what doesn’t].”

“You go to a store, and that’s not visible,” she said.

As an example, O’Sullivan said displaying calorie information on food labels had helped change consumer behaviour by driving awareness of calorie intake – to emphasise the importance of enabling consumers to make informed decisions.

Lasting impact

Speaking at the awards ceremony, SAB Director of ESG Barbara Copelovici encouraged industry players to continue playing their roles in driving sustainability.

“We should all strive to make a positive and lasting impact in our communities, advancing initiatives in areas such as sustainability, safety, responsibility, recycling, and more,” she said.

“We can always go beyond, and that’s what we’re here to celebrate,” she added.

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