As green as ever
Once again held in the Drakensburg, Noshcon celebrated its 55th anniversary this year. It’s clear, from the topics of discussion at the event, that occupational health and safety (OHS) has come a long way during that time. NICOLA JENVEY reports
Established by the government, in 1951, in a bid to reduce injuries and fatalities in the workplace, Nosa provides occupational health, safety and environmental risk-management services and solutions.
MICROmega Holdings acquired and restructured the business in 2005 to focus on creating a national service provider that meets the growing demand for occupational health and safety services.
The 55th annual Nosa Occupational Risk Management Conference and exhibition (Noshcon), held at Champagne Sports Resort, from August 30 to September 2, brought a range of topics to the fore. While we will discuss more of these in the forthcoming issue, here are just three.
Investing in people
The opening session addressed the topic: Corporate Social Investment (CSI). The session concluded that CSI was not charity and should be based on sound business decisions that generate profits, while being aligned with a company’s core objectives.
Essentially, companies have to recognise the distinction between a CSI obligation and its effective implementation, with the latter being the mechanism by which to manage risks and create business opportunities while making a difference in communities.
“Charity is an investment prerogative, while CSI is the opportunity to manage risk by using that investment and development as a strategic tool. It is a chance to build a company’s good reputation, based on its investments into the community, which then translates into business opportunities,” said Bannerman Resources CEO, Brandon Munro.
Expanding on this definition, The Kinetic Leadership Institute CEO, Brett Solomon, cited the examples of Coca-Cola and Pedigree. In the first example, the soft-drink giant elected to raise awareness of the impact of global warming on the polar bears, thus installing vending machines that showed the Arctic temperature once a purchase had been made. Limited-edition cans incorporating the endangered species were also designed.
In the second example, Pedigree encouraged consumers to “adopt a dog” by donating a portion of the sale price to animal shelters and rescue organisations, while also encouraging people to rather get their pets from these institutions.
A third example was Google’s decision to operate in a more environmentally friendly way by shifting its 87-million users onto the electronic cloud. The outcome was an 87-percent decline in the company’s electricity bill – an amount sufficient to power the city of Los Angeles for a year – and a significant increase in company profits. At the same time, the company was touted as a green company.
Solomon said that in each case the companies invested in CSI connected to their businesses and the outcome boosted sales. In aligning CSI projects to the core business, companies can maximise the benefits of their spending and investment in these initiatives.
Intra-Safe CEO, Ken Annandale, said companies also need to approach CSI using the fish analogy – “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
“CSI is not about charity or hand-outs; it is an investment in people and the means by which to help them. It is about recognising that Africa has significant issues and many people have lost hope, but that CSI can help to uplift and develop these people,” he said.
He cited education, health, experiential issues (such as opportunities to gain work experience) and social issues as the four key areas in which companies can make a difference with their CSI spending. He encouraged companies to establish partnerships with non-profit organisations that are already working in those fields to maximise the outcome of their investments.
Health matters in the spotlight
Metabolic syndrome diseases will affect more than 300-million people globally by 2030, placing the threat ten times higher than the HIV/Aids pandemic and significantly impacting on workplace health and employee productivity.
Consequently, companies cannot underestimate the value of screening employees for these diseases during annual wellness weeks, as the lack of symptoms typically means only 20 percent of people with these diseases have been diagnosed and are taking medication, Ariani Health Solutions founder,
Dr Arien van der Merwe, said.
Considering the topic: Metabolic Syndrome – a real threat to workplace productivity, Van der Merwe said there are 3,5-million South Africans with diabetes. Globally, 200-million people have metabolic syndrome diseases (diabetes, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol).
Comparatively, 37-million people globally and 25 million in sub-Saharan Africa live with HIV/Aids, meaning metabolic syndrome diseases are a far more significant challenge to workplace health.
“Before people experience increasing blood sugar levels, they may already be insulin resistant, but the symptoms like constant thirst, frequent urination, headaches, fatigue and nausea are so non-specific that the problem is often undiagnosed,” she said.
Van der Merwe indicated that genetics only contributes a three percent risk factor, with long-term stress, lifestyle, unhealthy eating and nutritional deficiencies being the more prevalent issues. This was why executives and senior managers, particularly those over 40 years old, were the most at risk and had to be encouraged to undergo regular testing.
Restoring insulin sensitivity to ensure glucose enters the cells is key to managing diabetes, specifically, and maintaining better employee health. Van der Merwe said medical science is now rethinking Alzheimer’s disease in the wake of knowledge that the brain also has insulin receptors.
“Alzheimer’s is now being considered to be type three diabetes, where type one is childhood onset and type two adult onset, typically related to lifestyle choices. Type three is recognising the brain is receiving insufficient glucose and is thus shutting down,” she said.
Heightened insulin levels causes renegade inflammation; raises testosterone levels in women and oestrogen levels in men; causes high blood pressure and cholesterol and affects mood swings as the liver struggles to detoxify.
“Workplace testing is essential as it is the only place where most employees have any medical testing. If the basic tests reflect deeper problems, employees are referred for more extensive testing,” Van der Merwe said.
She added that the secret to longevity is “eating lightly and enjoying ‘feather-heart’ living – including raw fruit, vegetables and seeds, fatty fish, chicken and plenty of sunlight and vitamin D”. She encouraged people to spend time each morning and evening in the sun, without sun block, to enable vitamin D absorption and warned against rubbing Vaseline onto the skin as it prevents this process.
Critical to healthy living and counteracting metabolic syndrome was regular physical activities. Van der Merwe encouraged people to do something they enjoy – even if that means turning on the radio and dancing to the music.
Communities and the environment
Engaging with communities in which companies operated, particularly when the activities have controversial implications like mining, is essential to managing community expectations and respecting their dreams and wishes, Bannerman Resources CEO, Brandon Munro, said.
Addressing a session entitled: Leadership through community engagement, he said common mistakes causing ructions in local communities include companies waiting untill it is too late before speaking to the communities; not respecting those communities; disregarding local authority structures; overpromising and under-delivering; arrogantly deciding what was good for the communities, rather than allowing them to make their own decisions; not educating people on what the company was doing; and sending inconsistent messages.
When companies allow these mistakes to happen, the outcomes are potentially irreparable. Munro cited a quote: “a reputation, once broken, may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep eyes on where the crack is”.
“Community engagement can be frightening, which is why companies avoid it,” he said.
He reflected on a case study where Kunene Resources wanted to explore mining opportunities in northern Namibia, on land on which the Himba people live. This is a nomadic, pastoral community whose lives and cultures have remained virtually unchanged for 500 years.
When he received an urgent call to meet with the chief, as there had been an issue with the company’s foreman in the area, Munro was concerned, but also observed a hungry community needing help. Resolving the dispute required respecting them and the traditional leadership. This lesson, he said, held the company in good stead during its prospecting.
Looking to industry engagement, Munro cited the case study where Bannerman Resources was developing the Etango uranium mine near Swakopmund. In 2009, the tourism and mining industries were arch enemies and, of all the mining activities taking place, Etango’s development would be the closest to the town.
The open-cast mine also required closing one road, directly affecting tourism, as it was on a route where tour operators could offer tourists a half-day tour to five key attractions.
Munro said Etango’s approach was openness and involved discussions with the tourism industry in a bid to resolve the problems and repair a decade-long conflict. This included holding a two-day workshop where both parties openly discussed their issues and looked at finding new potential tourism investments, Bannerman also became the key sponsor for the Hospitality Association Namibia’s annual congress as another platform from which to repair the relationship.
The lesson emerging was one of openness and working together to find mutual benefits.
Munro’s final case study considered the Macreas Heritage and Art Park in New Zealand, situated in one of the world’s largest open-cast gold mines.
Originally, the government had accepted the mine closure proposal that allowed the pit to fill with water to create a man-made lake, but halfway through the operation it declared that the company had to return the land to its original form – a decision that would have forced immediate closure of the mine and the loss of thousands of jobs.
The solution required thinking out of the box, and resulted in the creation of the outdoor art park incorporating large-scale posters and paintings, a “gold bar” forged from one of the mine dumps and a sculpture in the centre of the pit, which will constantly change as the water level rises following the mine closure.
“This was an opportunity to create an endowment for New Zealand by creating a tourist attraction from the mine, which is already drawing national and international visitors before it has even closed. Finding a solution required engagement with the communities and the government to make it possible,” he concluded.
Did you know that Toyota has an initiative to lower carbon emissions and go beyond zero environmental impact, as well as achieve a net-positive impact in society; the ultimate goal being to make a positive contribution to a low-carbon society that is recycling-based, environmentally friendly and in harmony with nature?
It’s called the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 (www.toyota-global.com/sustainability/environment/) and just one aspect that is central to its success, is technology such as the next-generation hybrid powertrain you’ll find in the latest Prius.
The company has sold more than 3,5 million Prius vehicles since its launch in 1997 as the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. Toyota South Africa was kind enough to lend us the brand-new, fourth-generation model for our trip to Noshcon 2016, so that we could make the journey with the least environmental impact possible.
How little? Well, Toyota claims the Prius will consume just 3,7 litres of fuel per 100 km!
How has Toyota achieved this? Among the many engineering advances, the 1,8-litre petrol unit has been completely re-engineered to deliver significantly better fuel economy. The new hybrid system also comes in a more compact package that weighs (and costs) less while being more efficient.
The electric motor can power the new Prius along at low speeds. At high speeds the car is also less dependent than its forebears on the petrol engine – further improving fuel economy. “It reflects significant advances in battery, electric-motor and petrol-engine technologies,” the company says.
All the while, the Prius is a full-size family hatchback with space for five, plus their luggage … It’s exceptionally quiet and comfortable, too (the theme of the cabin is “peace of mind”). That it costs a reasonable R455 300 only adds to the appeal.
Click here to see the full list of Noschon award winners.