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Taking action on your ESG strategy - South Africa

Africa’s business leaders must urgently drive effective ESG strategies


Only four out of 10 South African respondents to PwC’s 25th Annual Global CEO Survey believe that the macro-environmental forces in their society were favourable towards their company’s ability to create financial value. This is considerably - and concerningly - lower than the global average of 76%.

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CEO discussing PwC's Taking action on ESG strategy publication

South African businesses cannot succeed if our society fails

Source: PwC’s 25th Annual Global CEO Survey 

From an environmental perspective, the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes stark predictions for Southern Africa: a reduction in mean precipitation, an increase in aridity and droughts, and more tropical storms with potentially destructive effects. 

The risks associated with climate change in South Africa have many socio-economic implications, including unemployment, food insecurity, increasing health risks, and migration. Our survey also found that three out of four local CEOs are very or extremely concerned about social inequality impacting their company over the next 12 months.

It is clear - now more than ever before - that South African organisations simply cannot afford to downplay the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). However, our survey shows that local companies are lagging behind their global peers in adopting ESG goals and strategies. 

Our CEO survey showed that, while the majority of South African CEOs are concerned about physical and transition risks associated with climate change, most said their company had not made a carbon-neutral or net-zero commitment. 

Organisations can help to build trust in their societies and deliver sustained business outcomes by implementing effective ESG strategies. At the same time, stakeholders increasingly expect organisations to communicate and deliver convincing, measurable and sustainable ESG strategies. 

We are aware that there are challenges to implementing ESG-related strategies. Some of these obstacles could include, for example, a lack of staff with sustainable business expertise, or the absence of an empowered Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) to drive transformation from the top. From a financial perspective, responding to ESG issues might still be treated as a cost line by some businesses instead of being seen as an investment. 

Our latest South Africa-focussed ESG report outlines practical steps that African companies can take to address these and other challenges, and ensure their actions speak louder than words. PwC’s view is that South African companies should integrate ESG considerations into their corporate and investment initiatives and activities, and internalise ESG holistically to build trust and ensure long-term sustainability, agility, and competitiveness. (This page introduces our South Africa research but we also have the ESG-Africa report)

At PwC, we are proud ESG ambassadors and have aligned this approach to our global strategy, The New Equation. This enables us to build trust in society and deliver sustained outcomes. Through this lens, the global PwC network has committed to achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2030, decarbonising our supply chain, embedding ESG factors into our client engagements, and supporting efforts to develop ESG reporting frameworks and standards. 

Source: PwC’s 25th Annual Global CEO


Source: PwC’s 25th Annual Global CEO Survey


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Lullu Krugel

Lullu Krugel

Partner and Chief Economist, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 4929

Chantal van der Watt

Chantal van der Watt

Associate Director: Sustainability and Climate Change, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 5541