FOREWORD

In 1998, the Mail & Guardian launched this supplement, Greening the Future. This was near the end of a big decade for sustainability, with the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change in 1997. In a newly-free South Africa, there was hope that we could create a better world.
Creating that world would be the work of individuals, groups, government and companies.

The intro to those first awards noted that they “are aimed at recognising these new trends and rewarding those companies, organisations and individuals who, by investing in the environment, are investing in our future”.
Our awards would therefore be a way of encouraging this progress, of celebrating those who wake up every day and work to make this country a better, more sustainable place.

 

Photo by Paul Botes

In big picture terms, it feels like we have not gone far since then. South Africa remains, per person, the 14th highest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. Eskom continues to dominate our pollution landscape, both poisoning the communities where coal power plants work and the wider world with greenhouse gasses.

We are still locked into a dangerous level of climate change. The world heating at deadly levels. Ecosystems are collapsing. The natural world is in freefall because we have changed so much, so quickly. That pollution is aided by non-compliant corporations which might have greased the palms of some government officials to continue with business-as-usual. And all of this, has caused numerous types of ailments, while threatening our future well-being.

After Covid-19, it does seem like 2020 is a really bleak time for us, and our planet. But in the midst of the lockdown nature began to breathe again. As we slowed down, the world literally, started shaking less. Pollution decreased. Rivers became healthier. We breathed cleaner air. This came at a vast human cost. It is, all the same, a sign of what we could do.

The projects and individuals that we have awarded for over two decades are all showing us the way. This year’s finalists and winners give us, if we listen to them, a blueprint for a more sustainable world.

That’s something we all want.

Sipho Kings
Acting editor-in-chief, Mail & Guardian

Awards Categories

FOCUS PILLARS

AGRIBUSINESS

With deep care for the industry that nourishes us all, these finalists are dedicated to improving the ways in which farming is conducted at a large or small scale.

CLEAN AIR & THE QUALITY OF LIFE

Using environmental edu-cation and activism as a vehicle for social change, finalists in this category are improving the status of humans and the natural environment alike.

FORESTS

Placing their efforts in preserving and restoring the natural world, finalists in this category are dedicated to the cause of enabling plant life to flourish – for the good of all species.

OCEANS AND WATERWAYS

Dedicated to protecting one of earth’s most precious resources and the complex ecosystems that exist within it, these finalists fight to preserve safe, clean water for all.

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN

Producing innovation that applies their research or their own lived experience, finalists in this category create products that enable others to live more sustainably with minimal effort.

URBAN SPACES

Whether by rehabilitating city and rural environments with everyday actions or by starting at the beginning and creating new spaces from scratch, these finalists seek to build more liveable, sustainable environments.

Criteria:

WHAT WE LOOKED FOR AS WE CHOSE WHO MADE THIS YEAR’S LIST

Care

We sought finalists whose efforts towards sustainability and a greener future stem from genuine care for the world around them. Of course, there’s no positive or negative test for a sentiment, but we aimed to identify those whose work for the environment considers the wellbeing of all those around them, and above all does not cause harm in one area in the process of doing good in another.

Holistic solutions

Projects that particularly impressed us were those which recognised that sustainability is an issue that permeates many aspects of our everyday life – and planned their interventions accordingly. Many of this year’s finalists stood out by creating a secondary benefit, be it job creation or improved everyday efficiency, in the process of addressing an environmental problem.

Results

We considered individuals, organisations and projects that have already achieved measurable results. Every attempt to care for our planet in small or great acts is valuable. Projects selected for our list needn’t be operating at a great scale. We chose to celebrate those endeavours that are at a particularly promising stage of their development.

Efficiency

Sheer hard work and determination will always prove impressive. Ideas that make helping out a little easier hold particular value in the context of sustainability. We prioritised projects in which far-reaching effects can be achieved by enabling sustainable choices in everyday life.

Innovation

Sheer hard work and determination will always prove impressive. Ideas that make helping out a little easier hold particular value in the context of sustainability. We prioritised projects in which far-reaching effects can be achieved by enabling sustainable choices in everyday life.

Staying power

Recognising that the fight for a greener world is not one that may be resolved overnight, we attempted to identify finalists who are in it for the long run – to make a long-term difference, and to see them through. Some have already been around for decades, while others are just starting out.