The AECI Wise Wayz Water Care (WWWC) programme started in 2016 and is based in the Mbokodweni catchment area, working with 122 members of the Folweni and Ezimbokodweni communities in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal. WWWC promotes healthy natural environments through water and food security, while also developing community skillsets and sustainable livelihoods in historically disadvantaged communities. WWWC keeps a 30 kilometre stretch of the Umbogintwini River clear of solid waste and invasive alien plants, and has rehabilitated the Ezimbokodweni wetland of approximately 0.9 hectares, providing ecosystem services such as flood attenuation to the community. The rehabilitated area is cared for and monitored by the community.
Through WWWC, AECI and beneficiaries engage extensively with the eThekwini Municipality. This work has been acknowledged by Durban Solid Waste, the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, and the Roads and Stormwater Maintenance Department.
Social benefits: Skills development, increased employment opportunities, environmental education and safety
The Umbogintwini Industrial Complex (UIC), owned by AECI, has two impoverished communities on its border. While some community members are employed at the UIC, AECI also helps to address broader community employability through its support of WWWC, which develops green skills, while simultaneously strengthening the company’s relationship with these communities.
Through WWWC 441 beneficiaries have received training in a range of subjects, from basic vegetable production to water safety. Training can take a few days, or a few months, depending on the intensity of the subject matter.
To date, 16 WWWC participants have been employed by the eThekwini Municipality to draw on their skills acquired through the programme to clear and manage invasive alien plants. The programme also aims to establish two commercial agri-businesses (in poultry and vegetable farming) to support food security and increase sustainable job opportunities for beneficiaries.
The visible effects of WWWC have helped to instil a sense of community pride, as residents increasingly fulfill their responsibilities to their natural environment. Community commitment to the environment is indicated by the care and maintenance of the wetland, the decrease in the dumping of waste and active participation in recycling efforts, facilitated by WWWC members.
Community engagement and education is also strengthened through the WWWC. For example, when aquatic monitoring of the river system in 2018 found a spike in E. coli, WWWC members investigated and found that a family in the area had been dumping nappies into one of the streams. Once engaged about the effects of their actions, the family stopped dumping. Over the 2017/18 period 1 833 community homes were visited and engaged about the environmental challenges they faced and how these could be addressed.
Business benefits: Employee engagement, competitive edge and improved BBBEE rating
Through WWWC, the AECI Group has been able to demonstrate its commitment to environmental sustainability and community development, strengthening its relationship with the communities in which it operates, as well as with its staff. The WWWC model, which can be replicated across major operating sites, is profiled at all employee induction sessions. Some employees volunteer their advice and skills to the project in their personal capacity and various business units have expressed interest in providing more formalised mentorship, technical guidance and training.
Through waste reduction in the river, WWWC contributes to water security. The UIC abstracts water from the Umbogintwini River, below the area where WWWC works. Abstracted water is purified and sold to site companies within the UIC. For AECI, there is a cost to purifying abstracted water before selling it to site companies. The cleaner the water abstracted from the river, the cheaper it is to purify, and the more improved the profit margin for AECI. By assisting WWWC, AECI ensures a sustainable supply of water to the UIC and gains a competitive edge through reduced processing costs.
A recently established small business for the management and clearing of invasive alien plants will assist AECI with ensuring compliance with the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (10 of 2004). The use of the business as a supplier will also contribute to supplier development and, therefore, to the company’s BBBEE rating.
The WWWC is funded by the AECI Group Community Education and Development Trust, which contributes towards the ownership score of AECI Limited. AECI’s subsidiaries also support the programme through their socioeconomic development (SED) contributions. This type of support enables the AECI Group to reach a 51% ownership score and five full points for SED.
Programme in numbers
- R5.1 million total company expenditure on project in 2017/18
- R7.5 million total company expenditure on project to date
- 122 programme participants
- 441 training opportunities in 2017/18
- 1 833 homes engaged in environmental education
“This is a very good example of strategic CSI. It ticks all the right boxes for a chemical company. Extensive partnerships are a real strength of the programme. High quality and important measured objectives are evident. The project is strategic in that it focuses on a water ecosystem that feeds an AECI plant. A survey found that residents believe the river system is cleaner. Outputs such as the provision of specific training are quantified. Further quantified outcomes will shortly become available in terms of the water condition. This is a highly recognised and awarded project with strong PR value. It also contributes well to BBBEE SED points and has good evidence of competitive benefit.”
Source: Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2018.