Econet steps up its sustainability drive, joins UN global impact initiative

Douglas Mboweni

ECONET Wireless Zimbabwe has taken a major step in demonstrating its commitment to sustainable development by becoming a participant to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the world’ largest corporate sustainability initiative.

The UNGC brings together businesses from across the globe to implement principles of sustainable development and corporate responsibility.

With more than 13 000 companies in over 160 countries, the initiative encourages organisations to align their strategies and operations with universally accepted principles of environment, social, governance and human rights, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, among others.

Econet chief executive officer, Mr Douglas Mboweni, said becoming a member of the UNCG was part of the mobile telecommunications organization’s commitment to sustainability.

“This is an important step in Econet’s sustainability journey for which we have the full support and backing of our entire board of directors,” he said.

“As a UNGC participant, we will be able to leverage the initiative’s vast global network of participants to embed sustainability into our core strategies and operations.

“We very much look forward to working with member organizations to advance sustainability through this initiative, drawing inspiration from others, and hoping that some organizations will learn from our own experiences,” said Mr Mboweni.

Econet’s sustainability journey began more than 20 years ago when the company started supporting Higherlife Foundation to provide access to education for vulnerable and underprivileged children, as well as to fund educational opportunities for gifted and talented students through scholarships.

To date, the programme has impacted over 250 000 students, said the company. In the ensuing years the company, through its partner foundation, has gone on to support various public healthcare initiatives, disease prevention, leadership development and disaster management.

Under the new commitment, Econet has pledged to strengthen its environmental, social and governance (ESG) activities, while aligning them with the company’s vision and mission.

It is hoped that the UN’s SDGs will ensure that the group scales its social and environmental impact in the markets it serves.

As such, Mr Mboweni said Econet, which is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, was committed to ensure that in delivering its products and services it intentionally promotes sustainability.

“We are committed to promoting sustainability across our value chain. At the national level, we are also committed to supporting our country’s pledge to achieve energy emissions per capita that are 33 percent below the projected ‘business as usual’ level by the year 2030,” he said.

To achieve some of its sustainability goals, Econet recently partnered with its renewable energy sister company, Distributed Power Africa (DPA), to reduce the company’s diesel consumption by 80 percent over the next few years through the use of solar and lithium batteries.

“We will continue to leverage our partnerships, both within our group and with like-minded organizations, and to use technology to drive corporate social investment in multiple sectors, including in the financial services sector, in healthcare delivery, agriculture and education – to name a few,” said Mr Mboweni.

Econet, which is also the brains behind EcoCash, the country’s dominant mobile money platform under Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe, has been one of the biggest contributors to financial inclusion in Zimbabwe. Cassava Smartech is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and is itself a participant to UNGC.

The EcoCash mobile money platform has integrated millions of previously excluded members of the population into formal financial services, empowering millions of individuals and hundreds of thousands of small businesses.