Original Research

Market barriers for voluntary climate change mitigation in the South African private sector

Derick De Jongh, Carmen Möllmann
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 17, No 5 | a532 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v17i5.532 | © 2014 Derick De Jongh, Carmen Möllmann | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 April 2013 | Published: 28 November 2014

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Derick De Jongh, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Carmen Möllmann,

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Abstract

A key challenge in the twenty-first century is to enable economic growth and increase both environmentalquality and social inclusiveness, while mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change. The need for a transition to more sustainable consumption and production patterns is undeniable and sustainable economic growth must be placed at the heart of future development for all citizens. The South African private sector is under enormous pressure to remain globally competitive while balancing the interests of society, the environment and its shareholders. It has been suggested that there are discrepancies between what companies say and what they actually do, as they are challenged to move from policy to action. This paper evaluates the extent to which the private sector in South Africa adheres to voluntary climate change mitigation mechanisms and identifies potential market barriers impeding the large-scale uptake of such mechanisms. The research findings suggest that the private sector in South Africa has adopted a “take position, wait and see approach” which places them in a position to take advantage of and influence the opportunities and risks associated with climate change without having a negative impact on the bottom line. The primary barrier to voluntary climate change action is the vagueness of local and international policy frameworks. The different rules and resultant uncertainty around local and international frameworks appear to impede consistent and meaningful action. Although this uncertainty does not prevent the private sector from taking voluntary action, it does appear to negatively affect the overall scale and type of climate change mitigation efforts. While companies are continually improving the quality of sustainability reporting and public disclosure, the challenge still lies in translating these strategies into daily operations and sustainable practice that goes beyond ad hoc mitigation actions.

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