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South Africa’s #2 polluter Sasol pledges climate action

Highlights

  • Company will outline use of more natural gas, green hydrogen
  • Executives say climate action must consider unemployment

Sasol Ltd., South Africa’s second-biggest producer of greenhouse gases after Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., pledged more clarity on plans to reduce its impact on the environment.

The company, which together with Eskom also produces pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and particulate emissions, said its long-term strategy will be released in November next year.

Sasol has already promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10% by 2030 in its inaugural climate-change report released this year.

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The company will lay out plans to use more natural gas, rather than coal, in its operations, as well as so-called green hydrogen, which is produced from renewable energy sources, Chief Executive Officer Fleetwood Grobler said at the company’s annual general meeting.

Sasol is coming under pressure from environmental activists and investors to improve its performance on climate matters. The company refused to put resolutions demanding more clarity on its strategy to shareholders and activists gathered outside the meeting in northern Johannesburg.

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The resolutions were backed by some of South Africa’s biggest investors – Old Mutual Investment Group, Sanlam Investment Managers, Abax Investments, Coronation Fund Managers Ltd., Aeon Investment Management and Mergence Investment Managers – according to shareholder activist group Just Share. A similar resolution was rejected by Sasol’s board last year.

Grobler and Chairman Mandla Gantsho stressed that while the company acknowledges its impact on climate change, its actions need to be balanced with South Africa’s inequality, poverty and unemployment levels in mind. The company accounts for about 14% of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“No company can have a sustainable future without the support and sympathy of society,” Grobler said. “This involves difficult questions of balance.”

The success of climate mitigation efforts will be one of the measures used to determine Sasol’s executives’ pay from 2021, Grobler said.

“We have to have credible, reasonable plans when we put out our targets,” Grobler said in response to criticism from Tracey Davies, the executive director of Just Share. “If we get more gas or renewables we will adjust targets.”

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