In the second half of our Intersection of Change digital series, we’ve steered the ship towards the topic of climate change and hopped onto TED Countdowns’s goal to build a better future by “cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 in the race to a zero-carbon world – a world that is safer, cleaner and fairer for everyone.”
To inspire action and shed light on local activities, we invited some of our past speakers to highlight how they are going about tackling climate change.
Amongst those speakers was Khanyi Chaba, the head of responsible business at Old Mutual. She is responsible for leading the design and roll out of the company sustainable development strategy and, in her personal capacity, summits mountains and is a long-distance runner.
In this conversation, Khanyi spoke about what decisions leaders in bigger organisations should aim towards, and identifies how the rest of us can take the lead in our personal capacities to make decisions that will impact our environment in a positive manner.
We asked Khanyi: What values guide your decision making?
She puts emphasis on how mountaineering and doing long-distance running has taught her how to tackle the climate change agenda:
- It's about the attitude; the ability to decide that something can be done about the problem.
- She asks herself, “What am I bringing to the table? What decisions am I making as a leader with an understanding that what I decide, impacts others and my own personal space?”
- Using an example of not being able to summit a mountain all by ourselves, she points out it's about how we face challenges together, it’s about your fellow climbers; those who are leading and guiding you, to help you get to the top of the mountain.}
- But, for her, what's most important is how you stay the course, how you pace yourself. “[There are] so many challenges we go through in life in terms of leadership but what makes you stay the course?” With the climate change agenda she approaches it in the same way; “How long and how prepared are we to stay the course, making sure we take others along with us?”
How we take others along with us on the journey is how we’ve always managed to face problems, together.
Khanyi reminds us about our Ubuntu value systems and how those systems will help us cultivate a more sustainable community. Her reiteration of African challenges that should be solved with African solutions, “the way we have always conducted ourselves” is about being communal in everything we do, it's about the interconnectedness and the intersections of exchange.
She understands that the challenges we face as Africa - when it comes to climate change issues - are how we bring our solutions together to defeat that common enemy. Although she points out it is individual responsibility, it is also the responsibility of bigger organisations that share the same responsible investment principles - “because Africa is about sharing.”
“There's a huge gap in the role that business can play [in the fight against climate change].”
When it comes to climate conscious corporate management investments, the first step is to make sure that the climate change agenda is at the core principle of being a business.
Khanyi assures that with a responsible business angle in mind, there's an opportunity for business to participate and there is commercial value for them. However, it's no longer just about making sure that businesses are ticking the right boxes for the sake of good reputation and profitability, it's about how businesses and organisations measure themselves when it comes to the impact of how much they have moved towards progress.
These types of business models can take the lead in the climate change agenda.
She strongly believes that the role of leadership is about the service you can deliver, not just the position that you are in. For Khanyi, her position at Old Mutual is about how she can service the community she grew up in and the broader society. But most importantly, the kind of decisions she is making will affect the future of her children and grandchildren, which will not only afford them the opportunities but enable them to make the same conscious decisions in order to protect the future of others. Although she identifies herself as a pivotal role in making these types of decisions, she also points out that it's all about collective decisions that bring about change.
Khanyi identifies that there are “low hanging fruits”.
These are easier to pick and involve simple steps that we as a broader society can take to bring about change - like asking ourselves what kind of roles we are playing and how we model ourselves according to the values for which we stand. It's about making sure that what we say is something we actually do.
“You don't have to be educated, by the way, you don't have to pay money to make a decision, you just have to be able to be aware how what you do on a daily basis impacts the environment whether negatively or in a positive manner. It's the language we use, it's the low, low, low hanging fruit. What do I say to those that I deal with and how do they see what I say is consistent with my own actions.”
Another way is understanding our people-power and the way we consume and procure - where our money is going and if it's going towards a sustainable future.
One of Khanyi’s favourite topics is exactly this, “when you invest, when you procure your investment, when you procure your pension, do you ask your fund manager where that money is being invested?”
When investing for long-term it’s advisable to understand where your money is going to and to make sure that your investments are not contributing negatively to the environment. Good investments can be anything from infrastructure that enables renewable energy, to those that support schools or affordable housing and so on.
“It's about the choices that you can make and how organisations need to meet the needs of our customers today. I believe today in the investment sector we are beginning to see that.”
The climate is changing.
While it can be daunting to think about ways to reverse the change, Khanyi Chaba has made us realise that it can be as simple as making a decision in the right direction. If we all can make those decisions as a collective (individuals and businesses) then it doesn't seem that difficult after all.