Subtheme 6: Representative Demographics Within Service Providers and Civil Society
* Angela Andrews of the Legal Resource Centre compiled this summary of the Specialist Report.
The following constitutes a summary of a report written by consultants to the EIAMS process and does not reflect the views of the Legal Resources Centre.
Original Report by: The Green Connection: Christy Bragg, Roshan Stanford, Liz Mcdaid, Basier Dramat, Lynette Munro
In almost all sectors involved in environmental management – private consulting, government, education, NGOs – women and historically disadvantaged racial groups are underrepresented. Various statutes, policies, and hiring targets aim to correct historical imbalances. One example is the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act No. 53 of 2003 (BEE Act), under which the Minister of Trade and Industry issues codes of good practice to companies contributing to BEE goals, such as promotion of black business ownership and human resource development. These codes of good practice are then applied in determining license applications and government contracts. Despite such measures, the status quo in the environmental management field remains demographically unbalanced.
Demographic Status Quo
South Africa’s current population is estimated at 49.9 million, with a racial breakdown as follows: 79.4% African, 9.2% White, 8.8% Coloured, 2.6% Indian/Asian. The breakdown of the economically active population is as follows: 73.4% African, 12.2% White, 11.3% Colored, 3% Indian/Asian.
In order to gauge the demographics of the environmental sector, a study was conducted using information from various organizations’ profiles and membership lists as well as questionnaires and interviews. The following list is a summary of the results.
- General trends: Across all racial groups, most environmental management professionals work in the private sector. Across all sectors of environmental management – academia, consulting, government, industry, and NGO – whites are overrepresented and occupy most senior management positions.
- Government: The government has achieved far more success in transformation than other sectors. For example, the race distribution in the Department of Environmental Affairs Development and Planning (DEADP) of the Western Cape is close to the race distribution of the economically active population in the region. This is due to government commitment to transformation goals and well-structured policies.
- Professional memberships: Historically disadvantaged individuals (HDIs) and women are underrepresented in professional registration bodies. White men especially dominate the more advanced categories, but the percentage of HDIs are increasing in the candidate categories. The highest proportion of Blacks occurred in Candidate Engineering Technician, a low level category.
- Education: Race distribution of students pursuing environmental management-related degrees at the undergraduate level is improving (though it varies from school to school), but not at the post-graduate level. Schools vary widely in their transformation policies and support systems for historically disadvantaged students.
- Women in Education: Women are underrepresented in environmental higher education, both in the student population and in teaching positions.
- Private Sector: Race distribution in the private sector is imbalanced and transformation slow due to lack of formal policies or skills development. There is a perception that many companies place Black employees in positions beyond their skill level and without adequate training simply to boost BEE numbers, without regard to their career development. There are few transformation policies or gender policies in private environmental assessment practitioner (EAP) firms.
- NGOs: Transformation in NGOs in the environmental management sector has been uneven. Well-established NGOs, such as WWF and WESSA are still White-dominated, but small community-based organisations and sustainable development NGOs are more representative.
- Staff turnover: There is perceived high staff turnover of HDIs in the environmental sector. The perception is that HDIs will work at an NGO or in the government for a couple years, gain experience and training, and then will be lured away by higher-paying private sector companies. HDIs are in high demand because of the BEE requirements. This causes a “brain drain,” loss of institutional knowledge, and skills shortage in the government.
- Networking: Networking is a crucial skill in gaining work and recognition in the field.
10. Skills gap: There exists a gap between graduates’ skills and employers’ expectations. Employers particularly look for writing skills and people skills.
11. Entrepreneurship: There is a need for more entrepreneurship in the environmental management sector.
12. Awareness: There is little awareness of environmental management as career option.
- Holistic employee training: Because the BEE program has turned into a reactive numbers game rather than proactive transformation, EAP firms need to develop formal transformation policies and adopt a holistic approach to employee development, encouraging staff to further their training and giving them incremental increases in responsibility.
- Transformation Charter for the environmental sector: Government and civil society institutions should develop a Transformation Charter for the environmental management sector to establish best practices, develop indicators other than BEE numbers measuring transformation, and facilitate communication among government, industry, and NGOs addressing skills shortages and placement programmes.
- Encourage entrepreneurship in HDIs: Large, well-established companies can allocate resources to developing mentorship and working relationships with smaller emerging enterprises.
- Education and Recruiting: In order to promote awareness of environmental careers and address the skills shortage, schools and teachers should be encouraged to include environmental topics in the curriculum and instill how environmental issues intersect with social and other matters. The environmental management sector should increase recruiting efforts through educational camps, job shadowing, and attendance at science fairs and expos.
- Internships and Mentoring: Because mentoring and internships are so important in developing skills and gaining job experience, public-private partnerships should develop more of these programmes. Mentoring projects should be set up in which senior officers about to retire work with younger professionals. These mentorship programmes must be mindful of socio-cultural context and careful to set the right tone.
- Networking & Professional Bodies: Registering with professional organisations requires being sponsored by a reputable environmental assessment practitioner. This makes it difficult for HDIs, who usually have unequal access to educational resources and fewer networking opportunities, to break into the field and become certified. Schools and workplaces should provide HDIs with resources and encouragement to network through attendance at conferences, workshops, and meetings and involve them in various aspects of the EIA process so they can meet consultants, engineers, community members, and other participants in the field. A more formalized sponsorship process should also be established to facilitate registration with professional bodies. There is a need to fast-track registration of Black environmental management professionals, allowing for some leeway in the registration criteria in favour of experience or mentorship.
- Staff retention: In order to retain staff, workplaces should develop effective communication between management and staff, foster exciting career opportunities, develop systems to integrate socio-cultural differences, and work with the global job-shopping culture by offering career development opportunities and rewards based on individual performance.
- Recruiting and Retaining Women: Women’s forums and associations should be developed to showcase role models of successful women in the environmental field and otherwise provide a voice for women. EAP firms should make accommodations such as child care, work flexibility, and training to attract women to the workplace.