COP17 – Just another battle of wills?

Africa’s first United Nations Conference of the Parties meeting, COP17, which is currently underway in Durban finds South Africa needing to mediate issues of financing, development of and access to clean technologies. Multiple, contradictory agendas could, however unnecessarily complicate the process and for the host country, sustainability policies and commitments will feel the heat of the spotlight.

South African President Jacob Zuma speaking at the opening of COP17 conference.

South African President Jacob Zuma speaking at the opening of the COP17 conference.

This is according to IMPERIAL Logistics Chief Executive Officer, Marius Swanepoel who says that the country’s sustainability reality will be on display. “Voluntarily or involuntarily, the pressure is here.” South African business though, he states “offers some good examples of innovation in driving down carbon emissions and the use of renewable energy. We must use the opportunity to share what is working in southern Africa.”

“Transformation to greener business starts in the supply chain,” says Swanepoel, who views sustainability as an economic imperative. “For sustainability strategies, the supply chain is the ‘make or break’ zone,” he says, adding that there are cost reduction opportunities by adopting the core sustainability practices of thrift, efficiency and reliability.

“Purely from a supply chain perspective, consider the way in which electricity consumption for lighting purposes can be decreased by leveraging natural light in a warehouse. Or the way in which water run-off from a warehouse roof can be stored for vehicle wash bay usage. Use of solar power in South Africa can essentially provide energy for free, post payback period.”

At this stage, there are still more questions than answers when it comes to the value that COP17 will deliver to resolving responsibilities and moving forward. Logistics and supply chain management players, says Swanepoel must play their part in not only committing to cutting carbon emissions but using renewable energy effectively and consuming less scarce resources.

“As business, we need to fight and win the smaller battles in order to win the war on climate change. A focus on making meaningful progress in specific areas, particularly co-operative development of affordable clean technologies has good potential,” says Swanepoel.

On issues of finance, COP17 must tackle operational issues relating to the Green Climate Fund. “Especially considering recent findings that just eight per cent of the “fast-start finance” pledged in Copenhagen has actually found its way to recipients,” notes Swanepoel.

BBC environmental correspondent, Richard Black reports that “the longer-term pledge of rich countries is to provide $100bn per year by 2020.” Yet, in light of the current instability of the global economy, perhaps such funding from public coffers cannot be relied on.

In addition, commitment to extension of the Kyoto Protocol finds the developing vs. developed world in a game of tug-of-war where only one side can win. At the expense of the collapse of the other side. Black says that “Durban has been touted as the ‘last chance’ summit for agreeing whether to continue with emission reduction pledges under the protocol, as they currently expire at the end of 2012.”

“In South Africa,” says Swanepoel, “we have begun to see businesses compete head on to be more sustainable, not for the environmental accolades but because it is fiscally responsible. The realisation is starting to sink in. By addressing the problem of carbon emission and environmental pollution, companies not only limit carbon footprint and waste, but optimise business performance.”

“As companies continue to scramble to grasp the importance of ‘green’ in the context of future business, the contribution of the logistics and supply chain function will escalate. COP17 will require that business in southern Africa collectively presents its inherent innovation and proactive stance, while reiterating its commitment to sustainability action,” concludes Swanepoel.

About IMPERIAL Logistics

IMPERIAL Logistics is a global logistics and supply chain leader that moves business and industry through innovation, inspiration and foresight. Through its established Southern African and International divisions, IMPERIAL Logistics’ service delivery comprises fundamental logistics and end-to-end supply chain management solutions to blue chip customers in almost every industry. As a preferred logistics outsource provider, IMPERIAL Logistics positions itself as an extension of its customer’s business, building its customer’s brand alongside its own. IMPERIAL Logistics Southern Africa is a multi-branded business, categorised into five key divisions, namely Transport and Warehousing, Consumer Products, Specialised Freight, Integration Services and Africa. IMPERIAL Logistics International comprises four operating units, namely Panopa Logistik, neska, IMPERIAL Reederei and Brouwer Shipping. For further information, please visit