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In the latest Standard Bank Top Women Masterclass, Sustainable Finance was the hot topic of the day, as key players in the Sustainable Development and Finance landscape joined forces to share all the incredible ways in which sustainable financing can help you and your organisation to do good business! We delved into how sustainable finance helps female entrepreneurs, why businesses should invest in ESG, and how to manage ESG performance in your business.
Driven by growing demand, the Standard Bank Top Women Masterclass series is geared towards inspiring women leaders in various sectors, this week being the financial sector, assisting these phenomenal women in building and managing transformative and socially responsible business initiatives. The series is ideally tailored for women executives and young female entrepreneurs who are making valuable contributions to Africa’s landscape – filled with massive opportunities for growth.
Hosted by Babalwa Mkobeni, Standard Bank Top Women Content and Brand Manager, the Masterclass included Bongi Kunene, Managing Director of The Banking Association of South Africa, Taki Netshitenzhe, Director of External Affairs at Vodacom, Thembelihle Mbatha, Chief Financial Officer at CSOS, and Sasha Cook – Head of Investment Banking for the Western Cape and Executive, Sustainable Finance.
Polls from this Masterclass indicated that 76% of attendees work for businesses who are currently not involved in Sustainable Finance projects. This shows that Sustainable Finance in South Africa requires more awareness and investment. 39% of attendees also indicated that their companies do not have an in-house Sustainable Finance programme.
Key takeaways from this Masterclass included:
- Sustainable Finance is currently a key driver in South Africa’s economy, and is all about developing “intergenerational assets”.
- South Africa is primed for a renewable energy boom. An all-hands-on-deck approach will be needed to pull this off. If we invest in renewable energy, we will be safeguarding the future of the economy.
- The financial sector plays a critical role in the allocation of resources and funds. Thus, the sector has the ability to drive the direction of our sustainability goals.
- Sustainable Finance has a language of its own; It is not a whole suite of products, but rather an ‘overlay’ that gets embedded in existing financial products.
- Climate change is a crisis. All sectors should be coming to the party, as The Paris Agreement suggests. Investors, especially, need to align themselves with ESG issues to provide solutions.
- Business growth must not come at the cost of forsaking the environment! It is now or never. We need to lessen our toxic footprint – and Covid has taught us that we can actually change and adapt.
- Be aware and wary of “Greenwashing” – false information products and practices claiming to be environmentally sound – especially on social media. Remain conscious of preserving our environment.
- We need to work harder on enabling developing countries to participate in sustainability endeavours. Climate change is now embedded in banking, and this development should be standardised so that everyone has access to positively contribute to the cause.
- Sustainability is PROFITABLE. In the past it may have been seen as a niche market, but today it has proven to have economic and social impact.
- Societal transformation will not happen just based on CSI initiatives. There are other factors such as sustainability – which can be learnt through CSI programmes geared towards teaching kids from a young age.
Sasha Cook is a chartered accountant by profession, having qualified in the UK with BDO Stoy Hayward. She moved into investment banking in 2008 with the Royal Bank of Scotland in London until 2011, when she returned to South Africa and joined Standard Bank in their Leverage Finance and later Corporate Financing Solutions team. Sasha has held various leadership positions within Standard Bank. In 2017 she was appointed as Head of Corporate Financing Solutions, a SA business based in Johannesburg. In 2019, Sasha moved back to Cape Town and currently splits her responsibilities as Head of Investment Banking for the Western Cape and Executive, Sustainable Finance.
Taki Netshitenzhe is the Director of External Affairs for Vodacom South Africa, and Chairperson of the Vodacom Foundation. She is a public policy development expert with 20years experience in public policy development and law writing in national security. She also drives corporate social responsibility (CSR) and speaks in various international forums as a panelist on these subjects. An Advocate of the High Court of South Africa and former Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa, Taki is a recipient of several awards which include the 2012 Hungarian Eotvos (ELTE) University medal and certificate in education and cultural diplomacy, Intelligence Woman of the year award in 2007, and has been a two-time finalist for the Information Technology Professionals of South Africa awards for uplifting communities using technology and finalist for technology innovation. She is the 2021 12 Women in CSI in South Africa. In 2019 she was one of the judges for the Global Citizen Business Leader award. Taki holds several degrees in law including a Masters in Security Studies; an executive education certificate on cybersecurity from Harvard School of Governance and a Cyber security Post-graduate certificate obtained cum laude from Wits University.
Bongi Kunene is the Managing Director of the Banking Association of South Africa. She assumed this position on March 16, 2020. Prior to that, Bongi was the Pan Africa Head, Public Sector Banking for the Standard Bank Group. She had responsibility for the strategic direction of the business in 15 African countries including South Africa. Her career has included a role as the Executive Director at the World Bank Group in Washington DC. In that capacity she served on the board representing South Africa, Nigeria and Angola. She chaired the Audit Committee of the World Bank Group from November 2016 to October 2018. Bongi has served in the South African government in different capacities including 4 years in The Presidency, first as Chief of Staff for the Deputy President and as the Deputy Director General responsible for economic policy coordination. She served as the Superintendent General heading the Gauteng Provincial Government’s Department of Finance and Economic Affairs. She also served at the National Treasury. Bongi has been a member of boards including the South African National Parks where she chaired the Audit Committee; and she served as the Chairman of the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone.
Thembelihle Mbatha, a multi-talented young CA(SA) who is consistently rewarded for her success in financial planning, strategic and operational improvements is now the new CSOS Chief Financial Officer effective 1 June 2021. Thembelihle brings more than 10 years of experience in finance and audit, an excellent reputation in problem solving, improving customer satisfaction, and driving overall operational improvements, she is also known for consistently saving costs while increasing revenue collections. Mbatha has experience in policy development. She was the Chief Financial Officer at the South African National Aids Council Trust in 2020 and preceding that she was the Chief Financial Officer and Head of all support divisions at the Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency before joining the CSOS. Prior to this she was Finance Manager at the Mpumalanga Gambling Board and before this, she worked as the Regional Audit Supervisor at KPMG Inc. Thembelihle is a qualified Chartered Accountant, and she holds a Masters Degree in Business Leadership from UNISA School of Business Leadership and a BCompt Hons Degree from UNISA.