Sanitech, a leading service provider of integrated environmental solutions for hygiene and sanitation in Africa, has announced a major stride towards sustainability and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) compliance through the recent acquisition of two Electric Vehicles (EVs). This strategic decision not only aligns with Sanitech’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint but also sets a model for other companies looking for ways to prioritise ESG factors in their operations.
Robert Erasmus, Managing Director at Sanitech, discussed the importance of this move, noting that companies with significant logistical and transport footprints are likely to find it challenging to address this component of sustainability. “If you’re aiming to reduce greenhouse gases, the focus should be on vehicles. That’s the priority, and that’s where our journey began. It’s a combination of being pragmatic and practical about it – identifying applications that align with our commitment,” he stated. The choice of urban areas for this solution is driven by the belief that these environments are more conducive to the adoption of electric vehicles.
Environmental and infrastructure benefits
The incorporation of electric vehicles into Sanitech’s fleet is more than a tactical manoeuvre; it serves as a model for other companies looking to prioritise ESG factors in their operations.
While the current demand for electric vehicles is low, Erasmus highlighted two key benefits that will emerge with increased adoption: the positive impact on infrastructure as more urban areas embrace the solution, and the practical aspect of reducing emissions in congested areas. This, in turn, improves air quality, especially in regions like Johannesburg where congestion and vehicular emissions pose a growing concern for air quality.
Lowering barriers to adoption
Erasmus acknowledged that while the government’s support to adopt electric vehicles in South Africa is lacking, he highlighted the potential impact of reducing import duties on electric vehicles as a solution. Current challenges include a hefty 20% premium on vehicle imports, which is a major hindrance to more widespread adoption. Erasmus clarified, “At this point in time, we’re not doing it for incentives. What needs to be driven is support from government policies, similar to the incentives seen in European countries.”
ESG and the future of business
The absence of substantial government incentive does not deter Sanitech from its commitment to environmental responsibility. “There is growing international pressure on companies to ensure ESG compliance, and in the future, businesses will be compelled to engage exclusively with ESG-compliant partners. Sanitech’s proactive approach positions us ahead of this curve, enhancing our relationship with stakeholders and international clients,” Erasmus noted.
Cost savings and efficiency improvements
Erasmus concedes that, at present, the financial benefits of transitioning towards ESG, specifically through electric vehicles, may not be immediately apparent. “We won’t see cost benefits as we stand right now, but that can change very quickly as fuel prices continue to soar. At this point in time, there’s not a financial benefit, but we need to be prepared for future changes.”
Taking the first step toward holistic ESG commitment
Erasmus emphasised the need for a big-picture approach to ESG. “We’re not going to be selective in our ESG commitment and need to look at all the elements. Reducing the impact of our transport footprint is one of the most important elements, and as the technology catches up, we’re out in front.”
Erasmus highlighted the importance of taking the first steps toward more sustainable business practices in an incremental fashion, by finding niche applications that align with operational efficiency. “It’s far better to take a proactive approach to change, rather than suddenly having to wake up and transform your fleet at some point. We wanted to make sure we’re not selective in our ESG commitment, which means taking a holistic approach by being early adopters of technology that has the potential for significant environmental impact,” he concluded.