3 December 2015 at 9:00 am
On 4 December 2015, Sasol Limited and African Rainbow Minerals Limited (ARM) will each hold their annual general meetings (AGMs). Both companies have a significant detrimental impact on South Africa’s environment and on the health and well-being of communities affected by their operations.
The Centre for Environmental Rights’ September 2015 report, Full Disclosure: The Truth about Corporate Environmental Compliance in South Africa, revealed that over the period assessed (2008-2014), many of South Africa’s biggest listed companies committed serious breaches of environmental laws. In most cases the level of disclosure of these breaches to shareholders was extremely poor. Sasol and ARM are amongst these companies.
Many of Sasol and ARM’s largest shareholders have adopted the Code for Responsible Investing in South Africa, are signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment, and claim to actively incorporate environmental, social and governance criteria into their investment decisions. In light of this, here are some of the key questions that management of these companies should be asked at the upcoming AGMs:
In February 2015, Sasol was granted postponements for compliance with many of the minimum emission standards for air pollution which came into effect in April this year. These standards were developed and negotiated by government in collaboration with big industrial polluters, and promulgated in 2010 as the maximum limits for atmospheric pollution that South Africa’s already dismal air quality can tolerate. The postponements mean that Sasol can continue to emit toxic pollutants into our air in quantities that significantly exceed these limits.
It is unclear what steps Sasol has taken since 2010 to ensure that its operations will comply with the air pollution standards which came into effect in April 2015, or with the even stricter standards that will apply from 2020. Shareholders should demand clear and unambiguous answers to the following questions:
- What is Sasol’s technical plan to ensure that its operations will be in compliance with the minimum emission standards by the postponed deadlines?
- What is Sasol’s planned expenditure for ensuring that its operations will be in compliance with the minimum emission standards by the postponed deadlines?
- Does Sasol intend to apply for further postponements, and if so why?
On at least 7 separate occasions between 2010 and 2014, ARM was fined by the Department of Environmental Affairs for commencing listed activities without environmental authorisation, evidencing multiple serious breaches of South Africa’s environmental laws. Undertaking developments without applying for authorisation to do so undermines the purpose of environmental impact assessment, which ensures that the damage such developments will cause is properly assessed, and avoided or mitigated, before the activities are undertaken. Failing to obtain authorisation is also a criminal offence. Shareholders should be asking:
- How does ARM explain its repeated disregard for environmental laws, evidenced by these multiple occasions on which the company undertook developments without the required authorisation?
About the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER)
The CER is a non-profit organisation and an environmental rights law firm that helps communities defend their right to a healthy environment. It does this by advocating and litigating for transparency, accountability and compliance with environmental laws. For more information, visit http://cer.org.za/.