Sponsored
subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now
By fostering climate leadership, GIBS aims to inspire others to contribute to a sustainable future and drive positive change. Picture: GIBS
By fostering climate leadership, GIBS aims to inspire others to contribute to a sustainable future and drive positive change. Picture: GIBS

In 2023 heavy rainfall in SA caused extensive damage to basic infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The record-level flooding affected homes, businesses and communities countrywide, resulting in President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring a national state of emergency in seven provinces.

Now in 2024, as experts warned, we have already experienced more extreme weather conditions as disruptive rain and heavy winds wreaked havoc in many parts of KZN and the Eastern Cape.

Given these more frequent calamities, it’s not surprising that there is growing anxiety about the alarming state of our planet and uncertainty about who is going to take responsibility for fixing the problem. A single company, country or continent’s response will not, however, be sufficient.

Massive collaboration is required across public and private sectors to address climate impacts and to find innovative solutions to the many climate conundrums we are going to face in the decades ahead.

Personal and public choices

As a leading African business school, the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) at the University of Pretoria aspires to pursue practices that have a net positive effect on the environment, and it has a responsibility to help business leaders understand that there is a cost to action and inaction.

In November 2022, GIBS was among six prestigious business schools that launched Business Schools for Climate Leadership Africa (BS4CL Africa), a unique partnership to help present and future leaders combat the climate crisis.

This initiative of cross-sector collaboration and knowledge-sharing aims to accelerate progress towards the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. BS4CL Africa brings together business schools to build a collaborative framework for climate action so that business education curricula that match the needs and adapt to the realities of the African continent can be developed.

Business schools are crucial in developing climate-aware business leaders who recognise the urgency of the climate crisis and drive action

On campus, GIBS has a clear approach to sustainability that focuses on three areas of justice as they relate to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are digital justice, climate justice and social justice.

According to GIBS Dean Prof Morris Mthombeni, climate leadership cannot be achieved without these three justices being restored in society.

Mthombeni has been appointed to the board of Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME), an initiative of the UN Global Compact that aims to raise the profile of sustainability in business and management education.

There's also GIBS Sustainability Initiatives Africa, an integrating platform led by Jill Bogie, which showcases the work the school does around sustainability, with its climate leadership agenda at the core.

In the 2022 fiscal year, GIBS initiated a step towards its sustainability goals by measuring its carbon emissions for the first time. This crucial measurement provided a baseline from which the school can set targets, assess its progress, and identify areas where it can reduce its environmental impact effectively.

It also conducted an energy audit during the 2023 financial year as an initial phase of its plan to reduce its reliance on ecologically unsound energy sources. This audit identified areas where energy efficiency can be improved, while ensuring the security of energy so that GIBS can successfully continue its academic mission given the unreliable electrical grid supply.

The audit also provided targeted strategies for reducing the school's carbon footprint. Budget has already been ring-fenced for a possible solar energy solution on campus, which offers a renewable and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional energy sources.

As a business, GIBS itself is affected by the climate crisis and is taking steps towards redress. It also wants to equip and empower leaders to do the same, and one of the major steps it has taken is updating its academic offering to reflect current pressing needs.

Equipping leaders

Business schools are crucial in developing climate-aware business leaders who recognise the urgency of the climate crisis and drive action.

Global institutions have developed sustainability programmes, and GIBS launched an MBA programme focused on climate leadership and sustainability in 2024. This inaugural class has 15 students and emphasises foundational knowledge of climate risks and opportunities, critical thinking and practical solutions for business actions.

The programme offers an immersive experience, including a visit to the University of Exeter, home to some of the UK’s top climate scientists. Students take three compulsory sustainability electives and engage with climate leaders and experts through focused workshops.

The course aims to equip students with the knowledge and confidence to challenge business leaders and become fearless climate champions, essential for addressing the complexities of climate change.

GIBS launched an MBA programme focused on climate leadership and sustainability in 2024

Understanding the broader impacts of climate change and the importance of sustainable development is integral to the MBA. Even for those not pursuing sustainability roles, the module highlights the need for every individual in an organisation to contribute to climate solutions.

Sustainable business opportunities, supported by sound financial plans, can generate significant revenues, with McKinsey identifying potential value pools worth more than $12-trillion by 2030 in sectors like transport, buildings, power and water. Consumer trends, especially among millennials, show a shift towards sustainable purchasing, pushing companies to adopt sustainable practices to remain competitive.

GIBS recognises the significant risks posed by climate change and is committed to proactive measures. By fostering climate leadership, GIBS aims to inspire others to contribute to a sustainable future and drive positive change.

Visit the GIBS website to learn more about attaining an MBA with a focus on climate leadership.

About the author: Tanya Dos Santos-Ford is an adjunct faculty member at GIBS, focused on the climate and sustainability module of the school's MBA programme. She is also a senior adviser to Emergent Africa on sustainability matters.

This article was sponsored by GIBS.

subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now