AVBOB’s sustainability initiatives are a major differentiator in how we give back to society.
Supporting a climate-friendly world
By Malixole Gwatyu
Climate change has become part of our everyday lives. Society cannot immediately reverse the clock or undo the climate impact overnight. We can, however, act by doing the right things and learn to adapt to our new reality.
As climate change and the effects thereof continue unabated, the need for corporates to reduce their impact on the environment is of vital importance. In South Africa, there are efforts to limit emissions, and the Presidential Climate Change Commission is overseeing and facilitating a just, equitable transition to a low carbon economy and climate-resilient society.
If we are to secure a future for our business, our employees and our members, it is vital that all stakeholders contribute to the sustainability of our world by investing in initiatives that reduce our carbon footprint.
As a mutual society, AVBOB recognises the need to manage the relationship between our business, society and the environment. We understand the value of evolving and moving with the times. Over the past century, we have had to adapt to numerous challenges and have adopted an agile approach to the many facets of our business.
AVBOB’s sustainability initiatives are a major differentiator in how we give back to society. We partner with communities to deliver tangible benefits and value over the long term, and in doing so, we boost the economic engines of tomorrow by improving the lives of our members and stakeholders today.
Adopting new ways of doing
Globally, the depletion of natural resources continues to place a strain on the environment. Going green not only makes the entire planet sustainable and habitable but also helps everyone, as it enables humanity to preserve the environment by adopting new ways of living in harmony with nature.
In recent years, and more so during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have become aware of the challenges that municipal cemeteries face, such as limited burial space in many of the major metropolitan areas. Furthermore, the negative impact that the burning of fossil fuels has on the environment is an issue that concerns all of us.
At AVBOB, we know that we have both a direct and indirect impact on the environment, which is why we are deeply committed to preserving our natural resources. In the running of our operations, we measure our impact on the environment constantly and go to great lengths to reduce any negative impact.
With this in mind, in 2019, AVBOB introduced aquamation in South Africa – a planet-friendly alternative to traditional flame-based cremation. AVBOB had been looking into new, innovative alternatives to conventional burials and flame-based cremation for quite some time and started doing extensive research into aquamation more than nine years ago. This included visits to facilities in the United States and consultations with various local and global stakeholders.
Furthermore, AVBOB has embarked on several sustainability initiatives, such as using solar energy at some of our premises across the country. In 2016, we installed a bank of 134 KW photovoltaic panels on the roofs of our manufacturing facility in Bloemfontein – as part of a pilot project.
Due to the success of this pilot project, AVBOB accelerated its initial rollout plan and photovoltaic panels at the Bloemfontein manufacturing facility now generate 80% of the factory’s initial demand. The long-term plan is to continue to rollout energy-saving projects and use more energy-efficient equipment, which will indirectly increase our in-house energy generation.
Changing weather patterns
Climate scientists have found that the probability of disastrous events occurring has doubled and their intensity increased between 4% and 8% due to climate change.
Climate change is thus increasing the intensity of extreme weather events, such as the recent heavy rainfall in KwaZulu-Natal and the subsequent flooding. In April 2022, AVBOB donated R7 million to assist KwaZulu-Natal communities affected by the floods.
Apart from the need for shelter, food insecurity becomes more acute in times of disaster. Access to food remains a daily struggle for about 14 million South Africans. This situation is worsening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rising cost of living, and climate change. Climate change affects food security through its impact on rainfall patterns, drought, production outputs or new crop diseases, among other things.
With the population in South Africa expected to grow to over 70 million people by 2050, the demand for food is set to increase exponentially. Experts warn that if local food security challenges are not adequately addressed, the problem of hunger is likely to reach disastrous proportions in the next three decades.
Food insecurity is not only a local issue. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 (an annual UNICEF report) indicates that world hunger rose to as many as 828 million in 2021 and that 11.7% of the global population faces food insecurity at severe levels.
The impact of climate change (and its escalation of extreme weather events and food insecurity) is thus broad and complex and requires all hands on deck to drive meaningful and sustainable solutions.
* Malixole Gwatyu is AVBOB’s Manager for Communications