#WomenIn: Sustainability – Bongiwe Mbunge

Bongiwe Mbunge, partner for sustainability services at Mazars in South Africa

It is particularly interesting how the everyday decisions made by women in their roles as decision-makers in their households can contribute to the bigger business picture and influence their daily choices – provided women are given the opportunity to take that experience into the business environment.

Bongiwe Mbunge, partner for sustainability services at Mazars in South Africa, notes that this typically leads to the empowerment of small, local, entrepreneurial businesses that themselves employ sustainable practices.

She emphasises the importance of harnessing the influence and power of women and positioning them at the centre of the solutions we hope to achieve regarding climate change commitments, specifically those made by South Africa when signing the Paris Agreement a few years ago.

“Women readily take on decision-making roles in households, shaping important everyday choices for their families. However, their influence is not limited to their homes alone. As decision-makers in businesses, women have the power to contribute significantly to achieving climate change commitments. By leveraging their positions, women can promote sustainable practices, prioritise green procurement, foster diversity and inclusion, encourage employee engagement, and collaborate with stakeholders. These actions can drive businesses towards a more sustainable future”, she says.

She offers some practical examples.

When it comes to sustainable practices, women can play a pivotal role within their organisations. “As decision-makers, home decision-makers naturally push for the adoption of green technologies and processes. By advocating for energy-efficient measures, waste reduction strategies, and responsible sourcing practices, women leaders demonstrate a greater commitment to environmental sustainability.

“For instance, from my own experience as a home decision-maker my peers tend to actively prioritise sourcing from eco-friendly suppliers with a lower carbon footprint. This conscious decision in turn incentivises entrepreneurial-minded suppliers to adopt more sustainable practices themselves. Women also tend to choose organic and ethically-produced food items which not only ensure a healthier lifestyle for their families but also sends a market signal for businesses to invest in sustainable farming practices and reduce the use of harmful chemicals,” explains Mbunge.

She notes that the natural inclination of women is to make conscious efforts to minimise waste in the household, promote recycling, and embrace sustainable practices like composting. This innate skill can be translated into the business environment to foster procurement of only sustainable, packaging-free, and eco-friendly products.

Another innate characteristic of women home decision-makers is to champion diversity and inclusion within businesses. This can bring fresh perspectives and ideas to address climate change challenges through advocating for a diverse workforce that fosters innovation and creativity, helping to develop sustainable solutions and strategies.

“Women leaders possess the power to encourage employee engagement in sustainability initiatives. By promoting awareness and education on climate change issues within their organisations, women decision-makers can empower their employees to take action.

“Women have a natural inclination to multitasking and collaborating, lending them to be good at solving complex issues while reaching into their networks in taking the present agenda forward. By actively engaging with government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and other business leaders, they can contribute to collective efforts to address climate change challenges.”

Everyday decisions made by women in their roles as decision-makers in their households can contribute to helping businesses make sustainable decisions on procurement for event planning and catering. That same skill makes women decision-makers the preferred choice for a whole range of activities which start in the household – from menu choices, to event planning, supporting small, local businesses to knowledge sharing.

“Women would tend to prioritise catering services that offer sustainable menu options, such as locally sourced and organic ingredients, seasonal produce, and ‘free-range’ farmed protein options.

“Their natural preferences would lean towards event planners and caterers that prioritise sourcing from local and small entrepreneurs. These choices help reduce carbon emissions associated with transportation, support local economies, and ensure fresher and seasonal produce. The demand for such providers can encourage businesses to form partnerships with local farmers and suppliers, promoting sustainable procurement practices. This includes choosing all vendors who align with their business’ values, such as fair labour practices, ethical sourcing, and environmentally friendly operations.

“This is because women tend to educate themselves and their households about all such issues – sustainable food choices, ethical sourcing, and the environmental impacts. By sharing this knowledge, they can raise awareness – whether it be among family members, friends or work colleagues – influencing decision-making and encouraging others to make sustainable procurement choices as well,” says Mbunge.

Their knowledge acquisition stems from direct engagement with suppliers, expressing their preferences for sustainable procurement practices. “Providing feedback, attending sustainability-focused events, and actively participating in discussions or surveys can help businesses understand the importance of sustainable procurement and encourage them to make changes accordingly.

“Overall, women’s everyday decisions as decision-makers in their households can contribute to businesses making sustainable choices in every area of their activities. By demanding sustainable procurement, emphasising minimal waste and eco-friendly practices, supporting local and small businesses, fostering partnerships with socially responsible vendors, educating and raising awareness, and actively engaging with entrepreneurial service providers, women can drive the demand for sustainable procurement practices.

“Their choices can have a ripple effect, pushing businesses to prioritise sustainability, ethical sourcing, and environmentally friendly practices,” says Mbunge. Change is dependant on each one of us, irrespective of tender or class, however, taking the opportunity to insightfully explore women as change agents as we draw to the end of women’s month in South Africa is providing us a noteworthy perspective as we strive to do better.

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