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Using youth job creation to drive ESG strategies with YES

by Tia

There’s no mistaking that the light on the ‘E’ in ESG (environmental, social and governance) gets brighter every year. But in the social investment sector, the biggest trend is going to be how we use the ‘S’ to drive ‘E’ outcomes in South Africa and the continent in the next decade.

We can’t afford to take our eye off the ‘E’ ball for a moment if we’re going to do the hard work we must to transform to a low-carbon economy, and to mitigate the effects of climate change on our most vulnerable communities. But the fact is that as a continent, our carbon emissions are relatively low compared to other parts of the world. And what we really need right now are skills and opportunities for our youth to ease our unemployment crisis and to drive economic growth. For us, ‘S’ is a more pressing issue than ‘E’ in many ways.

What’s needed is to adapt the ESG concept to the developing world – and here, South Africa has a crucial role to play in shaping the direction of the global ESG discussion. We’ve long been thought leaders in ESG. In the 1990s, Africa led the trend of social responsibility funds (SRI), and as a country, we pioneered the notion of the Just Transition.

So, as a social investment sector, how do we use social impact to drive environmental change? How do we create the ‘E’ from the ‘S’, as it were?

Creating future-facing skills

It all starts with developing the right skills. There’s currently a massive shift in skills taking place as the world rushes towards biotechnology and artificial intelligence (AI). Numerous industries are already undergoing transformations that will be dependent on what we call future-oriented skills.

One of the keys to addressing South Africa’s youth unemployment problem lies in creating jobs in future-facing industries, which piggy-back on the world’s inexorable move towards digitisation and technology.

At the Youth Employment Service (YES), we place thousands of people into private sector jobs every month and upskill many more. Increasingly, these jobs and skills are in areas like drones, which are revolutionising the way businesses and governments map spatial data and measure environmental impacts. We see a rapid increase in skills like coding and AI, which are essential for a vast array of social sector programmes.

We’re placing more youth in solar PV programmes and looking into green hydrogen value chain projects. These aren’t just jobs: they’re jobs that have a clear social impact and drive meaningful environmental outcomes.

Putting ESG at the heart of business strategy

It’s critical that organisations incorporate ESG into their overall strategy. Their thinking should go beyond the impact of their products and services on society, to a deeper understanding of how they can play a bigger role as change agents in our society.

Integrating with YES for improved impact

In return for placing youth in YES work opportunities, businesses can gain one or two levels up on their B-BBEE scorecard. Beyond B-BBEE, businesses are integrating YES into their ESG strategies.

The YES turnkey solution has been implemented with 26 YES-vetted host partners across South Africa to place youth. If a business cannot place youth in their own organisation, they have the option to place youth with our host partners. The YES host partners are SMMEs NPOs working in high-impact sectors communities, which means youth do not have to travel far for work and they can play an important part in building their own communities.

Sectors YES host partners work in:

· Digital
· Healthcare
· Education
· Green economy
· Early childhood development
· SMME support
· Drones

Meaning business can create critical youth jobs in sectors that reflect their ESG/SDG strategies.

Creating youth jobs in sectors that build economic, social and environmental stability in communities (through the turnkey solution) is an effective way to systemically and holistically begin redesigning our tackling both the ‘E’ and the ‘S’ in ESG.

Join the movement. Co-create a sustainable future that works. Find out more at yes4youth.co.za

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