Ten years ago this month, on 4 September 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg closed, ushering in a new era of awareness and effort towards sustainability by South African government, industry and citizens. At the close of the summit, the SA government pledged to launch a cleaner production centre, in line with those being established in other developing nations, to contribute towards reaching the global sustainability goals.
This was the beginning of the National Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa (NCPC-SA), which today is a key industrial sustainability programme of the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) hosted by the CSIR. Its mandate is to enable South African industry to increase its competitiveness and sustainability through more resource efficient and greener production.
According to NCPC-SA Director Ndivhuho Raphulu, the original centre was initially a project initiative of the CSIR’s Energy Competence Unit, funded by South African government via the dti and the governments of Austria and Switzerland. Between 2003 and 2005, the key focus was on raising awareness of and building capacity in cleaner production, with toolkit training by international experts. In addition, pilot projects were implemented in selected companies, often in partnership with leading universities, focusing on the chemicals, textiles and agro-processing sectors. The primary objective was to enlist early adopters of clean production as a means of minimising environmental impact and reducing waste at source.
From 2006, the NCPC-SA broadened its activities and focus and since then has helped transform the way industry sees and tackles issues of sustainability, via the Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production (RECP) programme and the Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement (IEE) Project in South Africa. With the addition of five sectors in 2009 to align with the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) as well as the mining sector to the IEE project, a total of nine priority sectors are now served.
Through in-plant assessments, participating companies are assisted to identify areas where improvements can be made in energy, water and raw material usage and waste management. If implemented, these improvements could save millions of rands - between 2009 and 2012, potential savings of over R200 million, in terms of energy, water and material usage, were identified.
In addition, scarce and critical skills have been developed to support industry in the move to cleaner and more energy efficient production. Since the original training back in 2003, over 1 500 people having been trained and/or mentored in capacity building programmes.
Whilst these figures are encouraging, the NCPC-SA is gearing up to assess the true and full impact it has made on South African industry in the past decade. “In the coming months, we will conduct a detailed impact assessment – and we will not just be looking at direct benefits such as cost and resource saving by industry, but also at the broader economic benefits such as job creation and capacity building,” explains Raphulu.
Going forward, the NCPC-SA will be focusing on assisting industry to step up implementation, which usually requires investment in cleaner technologies. Raphulu explained that incentive schemes and financial assistance are being provided through, among others, the dti’s Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme (MCEP), to help companies make the investments needed to start realising the full benefits of greener production.
The work of the NCPC-SA makes an excellent contribution to the impact of the CSIR. “Impact is central to the CSIR mandate and by hosting programmes such as the NCPC-SA, we can further advance our ultimate objective of having a beneficial effect on the economy, society and environment that we live in,” added Johan le Roux, Group Manager of the Strategic Initiatives Implementation Unit at the CSIR.
Petro de Wet