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Opportunity Issue 102

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Opportunity magazine is a niche business-to-business publication that explores various investment opportunities within Southern Africa’s economic sectors. The publication is endorsed by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI).

A Thirst for Change

A Thirst for Change Mondi is saving water and managing freshwater ecosystems. Mondi South Africa’s (MSA) freshwater journey started 30 years ago, long before sustainability was routinely a part of corporate culture. It’s a story of commitment and collaboration and the enormous influence partnerships can have when people come together and put their ideas, resources and energy to good use. WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM? South Africa is a water-scarce country, the 30th driest in the world. The mean annual rainfall is only half the global average. Furthermore, pulp and paper mills and forestry plantations are generally water intensive. Mills use large volumes of freshwater and forestry plantations have thirsty alien trees. It was obvious that the stewardship of wetlands and freshwater ecosystems is of paramount importance to secure the limited water resources we have, and to maximise the many significant social and economic advantages that wetland conservation offers, such as employment and social development opportunities. HOW THE WWF-MONDI PARTNERSHIP BEGAN Nearly 30 years ago, a group of stakeholders lead by WWF South Africa – MSA Water Stewardship Manager David Lindley, gathered in Johannesburg for a meeting that would bolster South Africa’s wetland conservation efforts. MSA was the first commercial forestry company to commit to the wetland conservation journey and encouraged others in the forestry sector to do the same. From here the forestry industry and conservation agencies started working together and the WWF-MSA Partnership was born. WHAT ARE THE PARTNERSHIPS AIMS? • Best-in-class water stewardship • To address ecosystem degradation on our landholdings • To work with partners including other land-use sectors beyond MSA's fence line on freshwater ecosystem management • To reduce the water footprint of our mills 72 |

WATER STEWARDSHIP WHAT DID WE DO? Wetlands are one of the most important ecosystems for regulating water supply and quality. WWF and WESSA and partners initiated the wetland project in 1991. In 1997, MSA together with WWF, WESSA and other stakeholders conceptualised wetland restoration in the plantation forestry sector which catalysed the formal partnership between MSA and WWF in 2001. Together we began the restoration of the wetlands and riparian zones using specialist techniques developed by forestry plantation and environmental sector specialists. By 2001 water risks due to climate change were becoming more evident and MSA started to focus on reducing the water footprint of its manufacturing operations. Converting the Merebank mill to recycled water reduced freshwater consumption by 90%. In 2014, the MSA Wetlands Project expanded beyond wetlands to tackle water stewardship in priority catchments. Best practices were shared with the agriculture and forestry sectors and other big corporates. The project changed its name to the WWF-MSA Water Stewardship Partnership. In 2015, the Richards Bay mill trained its employees and contractors and invested in new technology to reduce water use by as much as 22%. It also partnered with neighbouring industry, NGOs and communities to build a climate-resilient landscape in what is known as the uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership. In 2017, the partnership team began catalysing regulatory improvements for Water Source Areas and supporting the development of international water stewardship tools, such as the Alliance for Water Stewardship Certification and WWF’s Water Risk Filter, which helps companies globally to focus their water stewardship efforts. WHAT HAS MONDI ACHIEVED? Water risk-impact assessments have been completed at all MSA operations in line with international frameworks and the method MSA and WWF team 30-year partnership dinner celebration for delineating wetlands has been co-developed and is now written into government guidelines. The integration of water stewardship requirements into national certification schemes such as Forest Stewardship Council and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification has also been included. The mills at Richards Bay and Merebank have reduced water consumption by 19% over the last six years. The nurseries in our forestry operations have reduced their water consumption footprint (relative to number of plants produced) by 50% over the last six years. MSA became one of South Africa’s first large landowners to work on rehabilitating wetlands and continues to manage over 15 000 hectares of wetlands. MSA has earned a reputation as a company willing to put up its hand, to engage, to find solutions, to move beyond legal compliance and to be transparent. Zoar Wetland, Iswepe, southern Mpumalanga, before and after wetland rehabilitation An important story of foresight, determination, inspiration and the power of strategic and meaningful partnerships. Morné du Plessis, CEO WWF-SA

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