There is a general awareness of responsible business conduct in South Africa. The King Committee, established by the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA) in 1993, is responsible for driving ethical business practices. They drafted the King Code and King Reports to form an inclusive approach to corporate governance. King IV is the latest revision of the King Report, having taken effect in April 2017. King IV serves to foster greater transparency in business. It holds an organization’s governing body and stakeholders accountable for their decisions. As of November 2017, it is mandatory for all businesses listed on the JSE to be King IV compliant.
South Africa’s regional human rights commitments and obligations apply in the context of business and human rights. This includes South Africa’s commitments and obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. In 2015, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) published a Human Rights and Business Country Guide for South Africa which is underpinned by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and outlines the roles and responsibilities of the State, corporations and business enterprises in upholding and promoting human rights in the South African context.
The GoSA promotes Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). The B-BBEE policy, the Companies Act, the King IV Report on Corporate Governance 2016, the Employment Equity Act of 1998 (EEA) and the Preferential Procurement Act are generally regarded as the government’s flagship initiatives for RBC in South Africa.
The GoSA factors RBC policies into its procurement decisions. Firms have largely aligned their RBC activities to B-BBEE requirements through the socio-economic development element of the B-BBEE policy. The B-BBEE target is one percent of net profit after tax spent on RBC, and at least 75 percent of the RBC activity must benefit historically disadvantaged South Africans and is directed primarily towards non-profit organizations involved in education, social and community development, and health.
The GoSA effectively and fairly enforces domestic laws pertaining to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, and environmental protections to protect individuals from adverse business impacts. The Employment Equity Act prohibits employment discrimination and obliges employers to promote equality and eliminate discrimination on grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, HIV status, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language and birth in their employment policies and practices. These constitutional provisions align with generally accepted international standards. Discrimination cases and sexual harassment claims can be brought to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), an independent dispute reconciliation body set up under the terms of the Labour Relations Act. The Consumer Protection Act aims to promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services. The National Environmental Management Act aims to to provide for co-operative, environmental governance by establishing principles for decision-making on matters affecting the environment, institutions that will promote co-operative governance and procedures for co-ordinating environmental functions exercised by organs of state.
The SAHRC is a National Human Rights Institution established in terms of the South African Constitution. It is mandated to promote respect for human rights, and the culture thereof; promote the protection, development, and attainment of human rights; and monitor and assess the observance of human rights in South Africa. The SAHRC is accredited with an “A” status under the United Nations’ Paris Principles. There are other independent NGOs, investment funds, unions, and business associations that freely promote and monitor RBC.
The South African mining sector follows the rule of law and encourages adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. South Africa is a founding member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) aimed at preventing conflict diamonds from entering the market. It does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). South African mining, labor and security legislation seek to embody the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Mining laws and regulations allow for the accounting of all revenues from the extractive sector in the form of mining taxes, royalties, fees, dividends, and duties.
South Africa has a private security industry and there is a high usage of private security companies by the government and industry. The country is a signatory of The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Department of Labor
South Africa’s 2019 National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) and National Climate Change Bill (under consideration in Parliament) aim to serve as an overarching legislative framework for adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change, supported by the implementation of the low‐emissions development and growth strategy for South Africa. A common theme throughout South Africa is the existence of very good legislation, but lack of enforcement.
South Africa’s NCCAS supports the country’s ability to meet its obligations in terms of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The 2011 National Climate Change Response Policy is a comprehensive plan to address both mitigation and adaptation in the short, medium, and long term (up to 2050). GHG emissions are set to stop increasing at the latest by 2020-2025, to stabilize for up to 10 years and then to decline in absolute terms.
The NCCAS specifies strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation, making use of the short-, medium- and long-term planning horizons. Concerning mitigation, it includes proposals to set emission reduction outcomes for each significant sector and sub-sector of the economy based on an in-depth assessment of the mitigation potential, best available mitigation options and a full assessment of the costs and benefits using a ‘carbon budgets’ approach. It also proposed the deployment of a range of economic instruments, including the appropriate pricing of carbon and economic incentives, as well as the possible use of emissions offset or emission reduction trading mechanisms for those relevant sectors, sub-sectors, companies, or entities where a carbon budget approach has been selected.
South Africa’s Energy Efficiency and Energy and Demand Management flagship programs cover development and facilitation of an aggressive energy efficiency program in industry, building on previous Demand Side Management programs, and covering non-electricity energy efficiency as well. A structured program will be established with appropriate initiatives, incentives and regulation, along with a well-resourced information collection and dissemination process. Local governments are encouraged to take an active part in demand-side management.
The GoSA has called its 2020 Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS) “the beginning of our journey towards ultimately reaching a net zero economy by 2050”. The strategy is a response to the Paris Agreement’s call for countries to set out long-term climate strategies. It draws together existing policies, planning and research across economic sectors. Among these are the IRP, which is how South Africa plans its electricity supply.
The IRP guides the evolution of the South African electricity supply sector, in that it identifies the preferred electricity generation technologies to be built to meet projected electricity demand. It thus provides a mechanism for the GoSA to drive the diversification of the country’s electricity generation mix and promote the use of renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies.
South African measures are currently being implemented by government to address GHG emissions mitigation across the four key sectors of the economy, namely energy (supply and demand), industry, AFOLU and waste.
Decarbonization of energy supply will largely be driven through the Integrated Energy Plan, the Integrated Resource Plan and the Industrial Biofuels Strategy, issued by the Department of Energy, the predecessor of this Department.
South Africa’s Energy planning is guided by the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP). The Energy Act also mandates the Minister of Energy to develop, review and publish the IEP. The IEP approach analyses current energy supply and demand trends within the different sectors of the economy, across all energy carriers. It then uses this information along with assumptions about future demand and technology evolution to project the country’s future energy requirements under a variety of different scenarios, including those with emissions limits and different carbon prices. The IEP provides the overall future direction for the energy mix in South Africa, and thus represents a key instrument for driving the move to a low carbon future. The IEP update with a clear trajectory for the energy sector is critical to guiding overall energy planning for the country.
In 2022, South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation launched its Hydrogen Society Roadmap (HSRM) to, among other things, take advantage of and develop opportunities for direct replacement of hydrogen from natural gas by green hydrogen. The HSRM will focus on the creation of and export market for hydrogen and ammonia, providing power to the electricity grid, decarbonizing heavy-duty transport, decarbonization or energy intensive industry, and local manufacture of hydrogen products and fuel cell components.
A diverse range of actions that contribute to GHG emissions mitigation is being seen across the private sector in South Africa, with significant gains having been made in certain sectors on both energy efficiency and emissions mitigation.
The private sector action is being driven by a growth in understanding of the business opportunities, local and global market pressure, and existing and forthcoming legislation. Actions range from adopting new products and processes to new service offerings to retrofitting of existing operations to make them more energy efficient and less emissions intensive. With suitable support this growth in action will continue.
President Ramaphosa signed into law on May 26, 2019, the Carbon Tax Act for company-level carbon taxes, signaling his commitment to mitigate climate change in South Africa. The carbon tax applies to entities that operate emission generation facilities at a combined installed capacity equal or above their carbon tax threshold. Each emissions generating facility must obtain a license to operate and report their emissions through the National Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting Regulations of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. The Minister of Finance in his February 2022 national budget speech announced an increase to the carbon tax rate from $8 to $9 (R144), effective from 1 January 2022. He also provided more clarity on the tax announcing an increase in the carbon tax rate, a delay in the roll out of the second phase of the carbon tax, and a reference to the Climate Change Bill, under consideration in the parliament, that makes it compulsory for taxpayers to participate in the carbon budget system. To uphold South Africa’s COP26 commitments, the carbon tax rate will increase each year by at least $1 until it reaches $20 per ton of CO2. Starting in 2026, the carbon price increases more rapidly every year to reach at least $30 by 2030, and $120 beyond 2050.
The carbon tax is being implemented in three phases, with the second phase originally scheduled to start in January 2023 having been postponed to the beginning of 2026. Taxpayers will continue to enjoy tax-free allowances which reduce their carbon tax liability. These allowances are given as rebates or refunds when the allowances being applied for are verified. The following allowances were permitted: 60 percent allowance for fossil fuel combustion; 10 percent trade exposure allowance; five percent performance allowance: five percent, carbon budget allowance; and a five percent offset allowance. The Act stipulates those multiple allowances can be granted to the same taxpayer. However, the total may not exceed 95 percent. Regulations regarding the trade exposure and performance allowances are determined by National Treasury.
The South African Air Quality Act of 2004 established minimum emissions standards (MES) for a wide range of industries and technologies from combustion installation to the metallurgical industry. The MES have been poorly enforced but there is growing pressure on the GoSA to hold companies accountable due to the negative impact air pollution is having on human health. In March 2022 the Pretoria High Court, in a suit brought by the Center for Environmental Rights, ruled that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) has unreasonably delayed regulations to implement and enforce air pollution standards.
On March 15, 2023, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment announced the decision to allow Eskom to operate the Kusile coal power plant without the use of the flue gas desulfurization mechanism for a period of at least 13 months to address the on-going electricity crisis. This is likely to result in increased sulfur dioxide emissions during this period, in excess of the current applicable limit contained in Kusile’s atmospheric emission license.
South Africa remains one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. The country is home to 10 percent of the world’s plant species and seven percent of its reptile, bird, and mammal species. Furthermore, endemism rates reach 56 percent for amphibians, 65 percent for plants and up to 70 percent for invertebrates. The GoSA has identified the biodiversity economy as a catalyst to address the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty, and inequality. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the GoSA through the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) to pilot financial solutions which will advance the biodiversity economy agenda of the country.
According to the South African National Biodiversity Assessment, published by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in 2018, there are more than 418,000 biodiversity-related jobs in the country. This speaks volumes to the contribution of biodiversity towards addressing issues of unemployment in a post-COVID-19 agenda.
South Africa has been recognized globally for its efforts in providing fiscal incentives to promote the conservation of biodiversity. The GoSA, through the National Treasury, has provided fiscal incentives in the form of biodiversity tax incentives aiming to fulfil national environmental policy to preserve the environment. This is facilitated through the government-led regime of entering into agreements with private and communal landowners to formally conserve and maintain a particular area of land.
The UNDP BIOFIN program in South Africa is working with the DFFE to promote the implementation of biodiversity tax incentives. The feasibility of the biodiversity tax incentives has been thoroughly tested through various projects including the partnership between SANBI and UNDP on the Biodiversity Land Use (BLU) project.
BIOFIN considers biodiversity tax incentives as one of the financial mechanisms that can be used to promote biodiversity conservation and bolster the biodiversity economy. The granting of tax relief encourages landowners (communal and private) to use their land in a sustainable manner while reducing the costs associated with managing a protected area. Biodiversity tax incentives effectively enhance the financial effectiveness of South Africa’s protected areas and their compatible commercial activities. They aid in sustainable biodiversity and ecosystem management. This is essential to the longevity of these areas and the creation of broader biodiversity economy livelihoods, the effective growth of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), and commercial operations linked to the wildlife economy. They also increase the protected area estate and area under responsible land management.
South Africa recognizes the risk of general environmental decay and global warming and is committed to responding to the climate change challenge.
South Africa has taken strides in the environmental domain that support, either directly or indirectly, which include public procurement targets for renewable energy; provisions in the Energy Act; the new Green Economy Accord; and international commitments to climate change mitigation.
South Africa ranked 10th in the 2021 BNEF’s Climatescope rankings of most attractive markets for energy transition investments. In 2021, the MIT Technology Review’s Green Future Index, which ranks countries and territories on their progress and commitment toward building a low carbon future, ranked South Africa 47th of 76 countries. South Africa is listed at number 11 of 21 African nations ranked by the Global Green Growth Institute’s Global Green Growth Index.