Zimbabwe: Sustainability Performance Essential for Organisations

Source: allAfrica
Date: 5 Jan 2022

SUSTAINABILITY performance is becoming an essential consideration for organisations worldwide, and the issues faced can vary dramatically depending on location, according to the Global Reporting Initiative’s report for 2011.

The Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) defines ‘corporate sustainability as a business approach that creates long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risks deriving from economic, environmental and social developments’.

Such approaches mean embedding sustainability with business strategy whose financial reporting qualifies as mature corporate reporting in annual reports. Sustainability broadly covers economic, environmental, social cohesion and governance matters of an organisation.

The GRI report says in Zimbabwe, companies are adopting the practice of sustainability reporting to monitor their performance around issues, including those related to environmental, economic and social responsibilities.

“Zimbabwe is coming out of a long economic and political paralysis, so companies had to stop using local currency. This provides challenges in terms of the catalysation of companies,” explains Rodney Ndamba, executive director (founder) at the Centre for Environmental Accountability (CÉNÁC), and GRI Stakeholder Council member, in the report.

“The GRI Framework helps companies deal with operations. It makes people begin thinking,” he says. “There are some immediate benefits, like access to capital. If companies are seen to be sustainable, a financial institution would want to be associated with them.”

The reports cites RioZim, a mining company and international toll refiner of nickel and copper based in Zimbabwe, as being actively involved in sustainability and aims to be transparent and responsible. According to Paul Markham, development division director at RioZim, sustainability reporting is important to the company. “ RioZim is a publicly-listed company with a high reputation for its CSR over a long period of time. We have been incorporated in Zimbabwe for 55 years and we intend to survive and grow responsibly for another 55 years.”

Markham sees the economy as an important consideration for sustainability. “The most critical aspect at present is the harsh economic environment as a result of the depressed international conditions and complex local economic conditions.”

Reporting has helped RioZim keep its focus on importantissues. “It has enabled us to remain focused on the need for aspects such as HSE and our communities even in difficult times,” says Markham. “We plan to continue growing the company in a manner that is responsible and leaves a sustainable positive impact on our communities.”

The GRI report also quotes Michael Gora, Country manager at ACCA Zimbabwe, saying reporting is also a significant branding and benchmarking issue.

“There is an international move to go green, and for companies that means doing things in a sustainable manner. They need to be seen to do it.They can’t wait for the law to ask them to comply.”

The Business Council for Sustainable Development Zimbabwe (BCSDZ) is also reported as working to support companies working towards this goal. George Foot, BCSDZ administrator, explains in the GRI report: “One of the BCSDZ’s prime objectives is the gathering and sharing of knowledge. Initially the intention was to enhance awareness of the concepts and benefits of sustainability reporting, followed by underlining the increasing international requirements for sustainability reporting, and then followed by moving from awareness to implementation.”

Ndamba, Gora and BCSDZ are part of a group of GRI stakeholders that are actively promoting sustainability reporting in Zimbabwe. In early 2011 the BCSDZ held the workshop ‘Making a Start on Sustainability Reporting’, led by Seakle Godschalk, a GRI Certified Training Partner from South Africa. I

t was attended by 40 professionals from different sectors. CÉNÁC arranged formal GRI Certified Training Courses approved for Zimbabwe, as a partnership between CÉNÁC and Environmental Sustainability Solutions of South Africa.

The courses, attended by several companies in the industrial, mining and financial service sectors, aimed to build capacity and highlight the importance of sustainability and transparency. As a result of the courses and workshops, interest in sustainability reporting has started to grow in Zimbabwe.

Looking forward, the GRI report says education is high on the agenda in Zimbabwe. As part of an accountants and auditors’ board, Ndamba is reported as working to introduce reporting into degree programmes.

“We are planning to host a symposium to introduce sustainability reporting as part of accountancy courses, with the aim of having sustainability reporting in the curriculum,” he says.

Ndamba and Gora are involved with Zimbabwe’s new ‘Publish what you Pay’ scheme, which encourages companies to report the payments they make to government. Companies can report these payments by following the GRI Guidelines. According to Gora, “Zimbabwe is adorned with natural resources - gold, platinum and diamond. Who is benefitting? People don’t seem to benefit, and multinationals are making money now the prices have gone up. The ‘Publish what you Pay’ scheme increases transparency around how much money goes back to the government and the people.”

As in many other countries, the stock exchange in Zimbabwe has a big role to play in making reporting standard practice. Ndamba and Gora are working with the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, helping to get sustainability reporting adopted as a listing requirement.

While regulation is awaited, Zimbabwe is also developing a voluntary Corporate Governance Code, which will help influence the sustainability reporting culture.

“We are waiting for a single listing requirement for all stock exchanges in the region, and Zimbabwe is chairing the group in southern Africa,” says Gora. “Some exchanges are already practising reporting. Companies have to start preparing for that, get into the culture and practise to benchmark with other economies like South Africa.”

As of 2010, there were no reports from organisations in Zimbabwe listed on the GRI Reports List. However, Ndamba sees that changing in the next year. “We are working with stakeholders in the region and internationally, including experienced reporters in South Africa, to help support local companies. In the coming year, we hope to see some Zimbabwe reports in the GRI Reports List.”

In October 2010 the GRI Board of Directors approved the Strategy for Developing Countries Towards Multi-Stakeholder Engagement and ESG Reporting in Developing Countries.

The Strategy is designed to integrate the developing country focus into GRI’s wider goals and work streams, and is implemented with:

Global activity, via the sustainability reporting framework and policy engagements
Thematic and sectoral activity, with special programmes for Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and companies in supply chains
Capacity building and training programmes
Presence on the ground in developing countries. GRI has four strategic objectives for developing countries:

To enhance all stakeholders’ knowledge, skills and ownership of sustainability reporting, and its link to sustainable development, poverty reduction, resource conservation and biodiversity protection.

To strengthen the sustainability performance of local business actors in order to positively impact sustainable development, and strengthen their competitiveness on the regional and global market.

To increase the capacity of stakeholders in particular civil society, labour unions and local authorities to engage in constructive dialogue with local and multinational businesses on their environmental, social and economic performance, on the basis of sustainability reporting. Capacity-building in the field should enable the creation of multi-stakeholder approaches that are specific to developing countries.

To increase transparency regarding the impact of foreign multi-national companies that invest and operate in developing countries. This should strengthen companies’ governance around sustainability performance and impacts in their host countries, and increase their transparency for investors and stakeholders.

In support of this strategy, GRI collaborates with organisations worldwide to provide training, support and guidance to companies in developing countries.

This activity ranges from holding events, workshops and seminars to working with governments on policy development.

It is also vital for experts from developing countries to participate in the development of GRI’s guidance. In 2010/11, GRI convened Working Groups to develop four sector supplements, and to update the guidelines. A total of 73 people from 25 countries, including Mexico, Chile and Mongolia, participated in Working Groups on Human Rights, Gender, Community and Supply Chain. Working Group meetings were held in two countries, South Africa and India.

Four Sector Supplements were under development in 2010/11, for Event Organisers, Media, Oil & Gas and Construction & Real Estate.

The GRI report for 2011 says more than ever before, the year 2011 can be marked as the period in which important new audiences started engaging with sustainability reporting.

The resulting increase in demand for sustainability information made organisations that report realise that sustainability reporting had been truly established.

GRI says financial market players and governmental institutions that had entered the stage were those with the power and authority to change the sustainability reporting agenda fundamentally. Markets had demanded sustainability data more heavily, and governments had been on the lookout for reporting standards GRI was there to provide the framework.

These developments showed that the number of organisations reporting using the GRI Guidelines was not the only factor for measuring the success of GRI. Over the past year, many different players had used the Reporting Framework to work towards GRI’s mission to mainstream sustainability reporting. Accountancy firms used the framework as the basis for performing audits on sustainability reports.

Stock exchanges referred to following the GRI Guidelines as ‘good practice behaviour’ for listed companies. Researchers and analysts used the GRI Guidelines as a lens to assess pieces of information regarding environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, and governments referred in concrete terms to GRI’s Guidelines as the preferred reporting framework for sustainability disclosure.

In order to understand better what type of data investors and research firms were really looking for and at, GRI set up a survey with Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) and Radley Yeldar. The survey intended to inform the International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC).