We had our electricity curtailment trial to avoid future load shedding last Friday, as planned, and I’m pleased to report that all indications are that it was a success. We’re still waiting for the data to be analysed in detail, but both Eskom and Msunduzi Municipality have indicated that they feel positive about the results. It’s been fairly stressful, sticking our necks out, but what a joy it’s been to see our community pull together like it has.
In some cases businesses gave up to 40% capacity! Lights and air conditioning were switched off, machines were idled and tea times were moved around in factories. Business owners had their staff bring flasks and charged laptops to work and then switched off their desk top computers.
And there have been some innovative support initiatives too. One of the local legal firms has taken it upon themselves to pay for an advertising campaign in the paper in support of the initiative. It’s so heart-warming.
Of course there will have been those that didn’t come to the party, but there have been some interesting spin-offs from this exercise that are worth noting.
Firstly, it has made the community very energy conscious and it’s made citizens demand more accountability from each other. I have had emails from people reporting street lights burning during the day and lights burning on the outside of corporate and government buildings over the weekend.
And, from chatting to people, it is evident that those that wondered into businesses during the trial period took particular note of whether the organisation was participating or not. Non-participation was perceived very unfavourably, as I suspect it will be in the future.
Who would have thought that a dark reception area would be considered favourably by customers? I guess that it’s true to say that context and intention are critical for understanding.
Load shedding is catastrophic for all businesses, and let’s face it, nobody likes a free-loader.
Added to this this is the fact that this is an era in which customer’s demand greater corporate and social responsibility. Research shows that the conduct of companies exerts an ever growing influence on the purchasing decisions of customers. A recent global survey by Environics International, showed that more than one in five consumers had deliberately “rewarded” or “punished” organisations based on their perceived social performance.
It’s not good enough for business just to trade in an area, society expects you to be accountable in terms of the wellbeing of that community. Caring about the environment is absolutely critical. Not doing so, is done so at your own peril.
Take that! Having your lights blazing and boiling your kettle during load shedding will not be considered ayoba in Pietermaritzburg any longer.
Melanie Veness, PCB CEO