SA Taxi, South Africa’s only independent financer of minibus taxis and one of the country’s few certified developmental credit providers, has kicked off a community focused sustainability programme with an initiative known as ‘1 taxi 1 tree’.
For each taxi sold by the company during September 2015, SA Taxi will sponsor the planting of one tree by the non-governmental organisation (NGO), GreenPop. As part of what it calls a treevolution, GreenPop involves the public and corporates in the greening of urban and rural areas across Africa by planting fruit trees in community gardens or indigenous trees as part of reforestation projects.
SA Taxi Foundation, the corporate social investment arm of SA Taxi, has agreed to sponsor the planting of 25 trees per month.
“Our 1 taxi 1 tree campaign is designed specifically to attract the attention of the minibus taxi industry to the issues of urban greening as well as the need to offset the carbon emissions of the road transport industry,” says SA Taxi Foundation director, Kalnisha Singh.
“We live in an economy where nature takes second place to housing or, simply, to the making of a living. Our environments are also heavily polluted by vehicle emissions. Trees have a vital role to play in reducing that pollution by converting the carbon dioxide component of it to oxygen. Trees also fix nitrogen in the soil, restoring its fertility. And, they create pleasant places for people to live and work.
“In other words, trees do several jobs for humanity. Yet, it’s not difficult or expensive to plant a tree. So, as part of our own considered move towards making the world a better place, we want to create awareness among our stakeholders that being sustainable is, in many ways, about making a few simple decisions and taking a few simple steps.
“A surprising number of people already understand that. We found, when we asked our own employees to handle their office waste in sustainable ways, that they quite happily adjusted the way they were doing things to, for instance, recycle paper instead of binning it. There was no resistance to the process and habit changes that were required.”
SA Taxi’s sustainability journey began some three years ago, when it commissioned an internal impact assessment to establish its carbon footprint. In terms of the JSE Sustainability Index, as a financial services institution, SA Taxi is deemed to have only a medium impact on the environment.
“Even so, we knew there was more we could do.” Singh says. “We embarked on a holistic, integrated programme that is designed to embed sustainability in our business and personal DNA.”
The company has identified 17 projects, working from inside the organisation outward to the wider stakeholder grouping in its direct impact zone that will create ongoing positive environmental outcomes.
Internally, the company has fitted energy efficient light bulbs throughout its properties and plans are in place for grey and rain water collection.
Its minibus taxi refurbishment division, Taxi Mart, which handles high quantities of industrial waste, including tyres, batteries, scraps metal, and oil, achieved zero waste in only six months. Contracts initiated with companies that recycle or upcycle waste have resulted in the tyres being used to make furniture, for example, and bumpers and fenders being repurposed as part of bed bases. An option in which headlamps are upcycled to become incubators in refugee camps is being investigated.
Taxi Mart is also powered largely by solar energy.
SA Taxi itself is investigating the conversion of minibus taxis to natural compressed gas and has engaged with various potential partners in the field.
“Some of the plans we have will involve education of the minibus taxi industry and its community in the principles of sustainability,” Singh says. “The benefits of natural compressed gas as fuel, for instance, are not immediately obvious, whereas those of solar powered, off the grid taxi ranks are.
“Our overall focus, therefore, is on moving through small, immediate impact projects to larger, long term ones in a process that will enable a collective awareness of sustainability to gather momentum and trigger an improvement in quality of life across the broadest social spectrum.
“We’re already seeing that ripple effect in our tree project. Although it is externally focused, many of our employees are volunteering to work in teams, on Friday afternoons, planting fruit trees in school gardens. 1 taxi 1 tree is a pebble that will start a socially positive avalanche.”