The green economy – a future-focused way of incorporating social protection and environmental stewardship into our model of economic growth – is a strategy that should dominate how the private sector does business. As a bank that aims to use our financial expertise to do good for individuals, families, business and society, our green-economy corporate social investment (CSI) vision is to be a catalyst for sustainable economic growth in rural and semi-urban communities through replicable, innovative models with a focus on women, youth and people with disabilities.
In November last year we revised our CSI strategy to focus on four key areas of the green economy that are critical to both the economy and the wellbeing of communities: agriculture, water, energy and waste. In celebrating Women’s Month, Nedbank has paid tribute to the impact that female entrepreneurs are making on South Africa’s growing green economy. ‘The energy these women bring to their social enterprises is making a significant positive impact on the country as a whole’, said Poovi Pillay, Nedbank Executive Head of CSI, at the gala Women’s Appreciation Dinner in Sandton on 18 August 2022.
‘They truly are the gold in our green-economy CSI strategy,’ Pillay said.
‘When Nedbank launched its green-economy CSI Strategy late last year, our goal was to look beyond environmental sustainability to create a green ecosystem that would also have a significant socioeconomic
impact by growing jobs and ultimately supporting a more stable social order,’ he said. ‘We knew we could not do it alone; this initiative is an opportunity to support the real drivers of this change, some of whom are in the audience tonight. Nedbank is privileged to work with a growing band of great individuals and organisations, and to see the change happening. Passion, skills, commitment and discipline are needed.
‘These women, and others like them, demonstrate those qualities every single day,’ Pillay said.
Also speaking at the event was Nondumiso Sibiya, cofounder of Boomba.mobi, who spoke about her journey as a ‘wastepreneur’. She began by tackling the problem of illegal dumping in Diepsloot Township. The name ‘boomba’ alludes to the dung beetle, which puts waste to practical use. Boomba.mobi is essentially a business that collects garden waste and building rubble and then provides evidence that the waste and rubble has been disposed of responsibly.
Boomba.mobi’s next challenge was to tackle the problem of food waste. Sibiya noted that waste scavengers were hampered from collecting plastic, tins, cardboard and other recyclables because they were often mixed up with rotting food waste. She began to collect this food waste from households to use for making compost, which she then sells. She exchanges used clothes and food that is past its sell-by date with households to access their food
In the process, Boomba.mobi has created 150 jobs, with more to come. By making money out of food waste, she is effectively incentivising the removal of food waste from general waste, thus supporting the work of the recycling community generally.
This innovative enterprise embodies the principles of the circular economy, which sees value and opportunity where conventional wisdom would see only waste. ‘We love to collaborate,’ said Sibiya, pointing to another key characteristics of the green or circular economy. Claire Blanckenberg of Reel Gardening spoke about her
project to bring food security in every South African’s reach. Reel Gardening has developed a kit that provides the seeds and equipment necessary for a household to cultivate enough vegetables on a 16 m² plot of land, providing one serving each for a household of four. The company’s name comes from the ‘reel’ of biodegradable seed tape that is planted straight into the ground.
The next phase of the project underway at the moment, thanks to assistance from Nedbank, is to create an
agrihub in the Cradle of Humankind. A thousand households have been supplied with additional Reel
Gardening kits to grow vegetables for selling purposes. The agrihub will process the produce and sell it,
guaranteeing each household R5 000 for its produce.
‘Five thousand rand may not seem like a lot of money to you but to somebody who subsists on a social grant,
it’s a ton of money,’ Ms Blanckenberg said. Aside from processing and marketing produce, the agrihub will also
offer training for aspirant farmers.
The third green entrepreneur to speak at the dinner was Hleziphi Siyothula-Mtshizana, who founded and chairs In Pursuit Africa, a renewable-energy company. Her long-standing commitment to create renewable infrastructure for social projects, such as schools and hospitals, spawned a parallel endeavour to train the youth in the communities surrounding her projects. These young people acquire the skills needed to begin installing renewable solutions in their own communities. She pointed out that the renewable-energy value chain is exceptionally long, and thus offers multiple opportunities for entrepreneurs.
All these projects share a focus on sustainability underpinned by opportunities to deliver financial rewards, and so boost social security and create jobs. They also see collaboration as a key business strategy, promoting to the social cohesion South Africa so desperately needs.
‘These women and the enterprises they run fi nd value in what other see as waste, creating sustainable economic
opportunities for others,’ says Pillay. ‘It is only by passing on skills, creating proper jobs and developing sustainable
businesses that we will create the new economic order we all want to see. These women are powering that