The launch of Transient Caretakers: How to make life on Earth sustainable, sponsored by Nedbank, was nothing short of a meeting of some of SA’s finest minds, with guests and speakers including top business people, scientists and academics. The panel of speakers included Nedbank chairman Reuel Khoza (who is also president of the Institute of Directors, where the event was held, and a convenor of King 3 sub-committee commission for corporate sustainability reporting), JSE CEO Russell Loubser and co-authors Mervyn King and Teodorina Lessidrenska.
Lessidrenska began proceedings with an anecdote about how King approached her in Istanbul, of all places, about writing the book. It was an easy pitch: how could one resist being part of a project that would be “a roadmap for integrated action to a sustainable future”? Together, they took a comprehensive look at the “degradation of our planet’s assets” of land, air and water, and the roles and responsibilities that individuals, corporates and governments can play in stopping it. Waste, tourism, transportation, urban planning and sustainability reporting all feature in the result of their work.
Khoza gave King his highest rating for moral stewardship in meeting the challenge of sustainability. “Let’s starts disseminating this information among ourselves and then spread it further afield,” he said.
Loubser spoke about how both individuals and corporates need to take responsibility: “our planet is too precious to leave in the hands of the politicians.”
King began his remarks with the facts. He told how the average person needs 20 litres of water a day – while, at present, there is only 7.5 litres per person to go around. “We have already run out of adequate potable water,” he said. He highlighted some of the major multinationals that – surprisingly to many – have taken big steps toward becoming sustainable, among these Coca Cola, for their water preservation, MacDonald’s for their recycling of cooking oil for bio-fuel and Anglo American. He highlighted the need to come up with better tourism solutions in South Africa: although tourism is a major economic driver, it’s also the cause of huge greenhouse gas emissions. “Everyone has this challenge and we have to meet it, we are the only creatures on earth that create waste that is not recyclable,” he said.
The launch of Transient Caretakers went further afield than the panel of speakers present: there were video recordings from overseas experts, including Ernst Ligteringen, John Elkington from Volans in London, and Sir Adrian Cadbury.
The guests were also of renowned status in the field of sustainability and included Alan Marneweck, who won the best sustainability development award in London for his Limpopo Lipadi Game Reserve.
Paulo dos Santos, one of the guests from the banking world, ended the evening on the right note. “Sustainability is the bottom line,” he said. “We need to address it before there is a war for food and water; it is time people start thinking and make it part of their vocabulary.”