Our core purpose is to make a positive impact on society by creating long-term sustainable value for all our stakeholders.
The year has made it abundantly clear that how a business acts in relation to its people and other stakeholders significantly influences its longer-term sustainability and success. I believe firmly that when these actions are sincere, this converts into the economic stimulus that every business needs to grow.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made 2020 one of the most challenging years that we have faced as a workforce. It has been challenging for all of us, wherever we live and work, affecting each of us in different ways – be it through the loss of loved ones, illness among family members and close friends, a decline in household income, or the psychological impact of being in lockdown for long periods and witnessing rising levels of poverty, hunger and inequality.
As we continue to navigate the pandemic, and some of the other significant developments that happened this year – such as the incredible solidarity around the Black Lives Matter movement –there are several lessons that stand out for us as a company. It’s a year in which we have learnt that diversity, equality and inclusivity must take centre stage, that empowerment of the disempowered must be at the forefront of our thoughts. It’s a year in which we have been firmly reminded that life is precious and fragile.
From an organisational perspective, the pandemic underscores the fact that sustainability efforts are not the preserve of a single team or department. Although our reporting focuses on material “social, environmental and governance” issues, the notion of a sustainable business has presented as something more. During this year, sustainability expressed itself in the collective acts of solidarity, connectedness and everyday awareness that arose across our workforce and from our leadership teams. While committed to improving how we measure and communicate our impact on society and the environment, I believe it is the sum of these immeasurable acts that will increasingly define our sustainability maturity going forward.
Despite the challenges of the year, our performance in key areas was sustained and even increased.
The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on low income households have been particularly acute, increasing the need and demand for affordable protein. Efficiency improvements and innovations have allowed us to increase our contribution to food security through the provision of low-cost protein. Canned fish is a particularly cost-effective option (priced near parity to chicken in South Africa) and we have been able to keep our pricing consistent. More than 14 million households consume Lucky Star products (up from 13.4 million in 2019), which translates into about 4 million Lucky Star meals every day.
Even without the pandemic’s strain on employment and redundancy rates, maintaining job security and increasing employment opportunities requires constant awareness. With the pilchard catch under pressure in South Africa and Namibia, we’ve been able to protect thousands of local jobs by increasing international procurement. We were able to secure jobs this year despite the depressed local environment, with no decrease in employees’ salaries required during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we provided additional support to bluecollar workers to ease the broader pressures on families.
Energy and carbon
We continue our energy efficiency drive and are making progress on reducing our consumption of non-renewable energy. Through improved production efficiencies, we achieved year-on-year reductions in energy usage and GHG emission intensity (1.1% reduction in GHG emission intensity on land-based facilities and 29% GHG emission reduction in vessels). This year we formally announced our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050. This will be achieved through the uptake of amongst others, renewable energy at our land-based operations and by converting our freon-based freezing facilities on our hake vessels to ammonia, underpinned by clear annual targets and short-term incentives for the management team.
Corporate social investments:
As the Covid-19 pandemic put lives and livelihoods increasingly at risk, we diverted CSI resources to support people with the greatest need. We aligned our efforts with local government programmes and implemented CSI initiatives specifically in response to the crisis, focusing on disaster relief, health and food security. We partnered with various aid agencies, NGOs and government departments to deliver food hampers and care packs. Oceana Executives and Board members collectively donated R3 million towards the Oceana Covid-19 relief fund to be utilised in our continued efforts to mitigate the impacts of this pandemic.
There is little doubt that the big challenges ahead of us are tied up with our social and environmental context. High on my radar are the 2021 fishing rights allocation process, ongoing adaptation in response to changing weather patterns and climate change and the need to maintain the physical and mental wellness of our employees as we consolidate new ways of working. Paramount also is the need to find ways to protect the well-being of the broader workforce in the face of deep systemic challenges – such as increasing joblessness and growing levels of inequality. In each instance, it is our relationship with stakeholders that will pave the way.
I am in awe of the resilience and commitment shown by Oceana people, across the board, during this period. Working together, we have made it possible for Oceana to continue doing what inspires us most: positively impacting lives. I believe we are beginning to see the potential that we have as a collective to make a difference.