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Incentivise staff to minimise

Ilva Pieterse

Although carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction does not traditionally fall within the realm of human resource (HR) management, Alex Hetherington, director of Carbon Calculated, believes HR can absolutely help the company reach its CO2 goals faster.

“First of all, the HR manager is in the ideal position to determine if CO2 reduction management can be handled in house or whether it would be better outsourced, based on the availability and capacity of current staff,” he says.

“Furthermore, HR could see to it that CO2 reduction is offered as part of an incentive structure to motivate staff to change certain behaviours. HR can also play an integral role in supporting and assisting employees during this change, ensuring a smooth transition.”

Hetherington continues, “Last, but certainly not least, HR’s role in spreading awareness and educating staff about the importance of CO2 reduction can be fundamental to the project’s success and it can prove invaluable in establishing a culture of ongoing CO2 reduction practice in the workplace."

How bad is it?

According to Hetherington, the latest World Energy Statistics, IEA (2011) figures do not bode well for South Africa (SA) - the country is ranked as the 14th highest CO2-emitting country worldwide.

Furthermore, SA’s CO2 emission per capita is rated 12th highest in the world and its “emissions per GDP” score ranks 7th highest globally. “These figures do not line up with the country’s current economic state, which makes the national outlook somewhat dire at the moment,” Hetherington cautions.

The report revealed that in SA’s Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios, emissions would quadruple between 2003 and 2050, most notably from the electricity, industrial and transport sectors. One of the biggest climate change mitigation issues facing SA currently is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from the power sector, primarily by reducing reliance on coal. The report also showed that that the electricity and heat sector produced as much as 62% of SA’s CO2 emissions in 2009.

Not surprisingly, cost-reduction is one of the main motivators for cutting down on CO2 consumption, while many legislative drivers exist as well. These include the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, National Environmental Management: Waste Quality Act, the National Environmental Management: Water Quality Act as well as the various related local bylaws.

“Sustainability reporting requirements are also pushing many companies to keep a close eye on CO2 emissions, especially if they are listed companies,” explains Hetherington. “However, this does not mean that unlisted and smaller companies should not also be considering CO2 reduction, as its influence will increasingly be felt, especially when trying to maintain competitive advantage. International organisations may demand to see CO2 status reports from a company before any contracts are signed and if reports cannot be supplied, it will most certainly result in a loss of business."

“Besides, reducing one’s carbon footprint is simply the right thing to do,” Hetherington emphasises.

Pulp fiction

There may be ample ways of reducing CO2 emissions in the workplace, but The Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PMASA) wants us to know that printing isn’t nearly as bad as most believe it to be.

“In fact, reading a document on screen produces more CO2 than printing out the same document,” explains says Jane Molony, executive director of the PMASA. “A printed document can be read over again without further emissions and can also be recycled.”

In SA, 600 million trees across 762 000 hectares are specifically grown for use in pulp and paper manufacturing. “As massive sinks for atmospheric carbon, forests mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen through the natural process of photosynthesis. SA’s timber plantations lock up 900 million tons a year of CO2, which is a massive environmental service and a key means of mitigating climate change,” she continues.

“If it were not for the pulp and paper industry operating world-wide for the last 150 years the CO2 levels in the atmosphere would be 5% higher (about 0.5 degree) than they are at present.”

The South African forestry sector only harvests about 9% of the total plantation area annually for paper manufacture. Only mature trees are harvested, and each of these is replaced by saplings in the same year. Carbon absorption continues as the new trees grow and young trees are able to absorb carbon more rapidly than the older trees.

“Consumers of locally manufactured paper products or products bearing the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) mark of certification can be confident that they are making environmentally responsible choices,” Molony concludes.

To see how you measure up, click here for a quick online carbon assessment from Food & Trees South Africa.

Author: Ilva Pieterse completed a BIS (Publishing) at the University of Pretoria and has been involved in the media for 11 years fulfilling various roles including journalist, writer, PR professional, and editor. She is the owner of Quote Unquote Media. Ilva has held the following positions: production manager, newsletter manager, journalist, features & supplements editor, copywriter, sales & marketing director, account manager (public relations), consultant (media relations strategy) and contributing writer.