Sustainability Summit Africa puts the spotlight on climate change, diversity, equity and inclusion, and sustainable procurement
Lazar Armianov

More than 200 sourcing and procurement professionals from 87 countries gathered online for the 2022 Sustainability Summit Africa.

Now in its second year, this event is the only continent-wide sustainable procurement conference. It was founded by Smart Procurement World to address the pressing need to implement and drive sustainable procurement that has a positive impact not just on businesses but on the communities in which they operate.

Recognising the increasingly crucial role of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the successful sustainability programmes of conscious organisations, the powerful programme for this year’s Sustainability Summit Africa included a panel discussion entitled “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - Putting a Price on the Priceless”. The expert panellists examined new ways to think and talk about diversity, as well as the imperative for leaders to cultivate new skills to enable equity and inclusion in the workplace.

This panel discussion was facilitated by Desré Hancocks of supply chain sustainability and carbon consulting firm Carbon Intelligence. She opened the session by noting that procurement is very old school and posed the question of how to drive change. “Organisations need scalable ways to ensure that their diversity and inclusion initiatives avoid common mistakes and are solid and sustainable. How do we shift mindsets and create inclusive cultures?”

Sandile Khoza, GM of operations at Access World and chairperson for the organisation’s Employment Equity Committee stressed the importance of an intentional leadership focus on DEI. “How intentional are we when it comes to really driving this imperative? Unless there is a conscious decision by leadership to drive it, organisations will just continue talking about it,” he asserted. He advised business leaders to do some introspection and ensure that they were not simply ticking boxes when it comes to diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Panellist Elizabeth Tchwenko, who is the founder and CEO of Auth’Afrique in Cameroon, urged businesses to not just consider their own internal DEI initiatives and progress, but those of their suppliers. “There should be a monetary impact for organisations,” she stressed, adding that diversity, equity and inclusion are intertwined with sustainability. Tchwenko said that the best advice she could offer businesses is to start their DEI journey without delay. “If you cannot afford a consultant, start with the small things that you can address right now,” she urged delegates.

Dr. Faith Mashele, Gauteng branch chairperson of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), concurred. She cautioned, however that there is no one size fits all solution to addressing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, and said it is vital to listen to everyone’s input. “When employees are saying that something is an issue, it is essential to listen,” she stressed.

Olanike Ayomide Mensah, founder and CEO of Mosaic Consulting, weighed in on the importance of ensuring that change can happen. “Who has the power to drive change? Equity committees are often established but they do not have any teeth; often by design. Give people the power to make an impact; get started; and keep going,” she advised delegates.

Climate change and the retail sector

The devastating floods in the Durban area in April, the drought in the Eastern Cape, and last year’s Cyclone Eloise are alarming evidence of the growing threat posed by climate change, according to Sanjeev Raghubir , who is Shoprite South Africa’s group sustainability manager, In his 2022 Sustainability Summit presentation, he explored the impact of climate change on the retail sector and its supply chain.

“Increases in rainfall and flooding in Southern Africa have been observed and attributed to climate change, together with decreases in rainfall. These unusual weather patterns affect crops and this impacts the quality, price and availability of food products. Flooding affects manufacturing and logistics infrastructure, too, which in turn impacts retailers. The flooding and devastation in KwaZulu-Natal resulted in higher operational and insurance costs for retailers. The impact of climate change across the retail value chain is significant,” Raghubir said.

His presentation also looked at how the retail sector contributes to climate change. “While the retail sector may be a small source of greenhouse gases, there are emissions across the entire value chain,” he noted. “Upstream, the growing, harvesting and processing of crops produces greenhouse gases, along with logistics and distribution operations, including transportation and warehousing. Downstream, there are emissions from organic waste in landfills, and from consumers cooking food and using appliances purchased from retailers.”

Raghubir told summit delegates that there are opportunities for retailers to help fight climate change, to mitigate its impact on their operations, and to meet the needs of consumers who are increasingly aware and concerned about climate change issues. “Consumers today want more environmentally friendly, sustainable products. They want energy efficient lighting, products with more recycled content, more plant-based, meat-free, vegan and flexitarian meals. This is an opportunity for retailers.

“To mitigate the impacts of climate change, retailers must adapt,” he stressed. Measures being implemented by the Shoprite group to reduce their impact on the environment include rolling out almost one million energy efficient lightbulbs and improving the organisation’s distribution, he revealed. “We are optimising the routing of trucks, including removing empty loads and dead legs. Our vehicles have solar panels to run refrigeration units. We have accelerated the rollout of roof top solar on our stores.”

To adapt, the organisation is developing its back-up water infrastructure and ensuring a back-up supply base. “We are striving to source from different areas so that we can ensure that we have stock on our shelves.” Working with the communities in which the business operates also forms part of the Shoprite group’s sustainability programme. “We are committed to building the resilience and adaptive capacity in our communities through things like food gardens,” Raghubir told delegates.

Smart Procurement World chief operating officer Debbie Tagg expressed her gratitude to the event’s Platimum Sponsor, Ecovadis. “The presentation by London-based Lazar Armianov, who is regional sales director for Northern Europe, Middle East and Africa, was informative and insightful. We were delighted to be able to include this important session – entitled “Supply Chain Resilience Redefined: Raising Ambitions to Improvement & Impact” – on the programme,” Tagg commented.  

The second annual Sustainability Summit Africa garnered high praise from attendees. “Thanks for these discussions and the very essential information to consider,” commented Daniel Mabena, business development executive at Triumphant Zoe (Pty) Ltd.

“I have gained a lot in understanding sustainability,” was the feedback from Motsha Moilwa, OHS consultant, SITA.

Jacob Luka Ogetii from Nairobi, Kenya, commended the “knowledgeable panel”.

Smart Procurement’s event partners for the 2022 Sustainability Summit Africa were:

  • Ecovadis
  • Commerce Edge
  • Green Building Council South Africa
  • Hotelstuff / Greenstuff
  • SA Business Integrator
  • SA Building Review
  • To Build
  • Supply Network Africa