Do you see sustainability as a soft issue, removed from the real business of maximising shareholder value? Is it about ‘giving back’ to society through a social investment programme and encouraging marketing departments and facility managers to embrace the new ‘green agenda’?

Arguably up until recently, the role of many corporate sustainability managers in South Africa has been focused largely on developing an annual sustainability report, completing detailed submissions for the JSE’s SRI Index and Carbon Disclosure Project, and managing philanthropic engagements.

In short, sustainability has been framed in the context of legal compliance and moral responsibility; not as an issue that informs the company’s core strategy and growth objectives.

But this is changing in a profound, systemic movement across the globe. Asset managers and business owners are incorporating sustainable environment, social and governance (ESG) practices in their accounting structures. And that is what international investors are looking at. In a recent survey of more than 800 companies from six continents by the UN Global Compact, 93% of the surveyed CEOs stated that sustainability was important to their company’s future success. In the words of one CEO: ‘Sustainability is about growth and innovation; in the future, it will be the only way to do business.’