Taking sustainability beyond the balance sheet
Husqvarna SA Managing Director Pieter Smuts explains how their approach to sustainability goes way beyond the core business of supplying and supporting a range of land care equipment, and has become a way of life …
“When I returned to the forestry and garden division of Husqvarna three years ago, I faced a number of key business challenges. Back then, I decided that we were going to have to do things differently. You can’t simply continue as before and expect different results,” said Pieter Smuts, Husqvarna SA Managing Director.
“Some people have a perception that Husqvarna simply sells chain saws to cut down trees, ultimately damaging the environment. That is not true. We do a lot of work – globally and locally - to prevent that and to support sustainable businesses.
“In those earliest days when we were looking at how to take this forward, we used one of Husqvarna’s global studies entitled Urban Parks 2030 to help guide our decisions. This showed that our green spaces – gardens, parks and forests – were going to be more important than ever. The pandemic, lockdown and various health issues have taken this concept a step further, showing that green spaces are important for addressing issues like climate change, air and water quality and biodiversity as well as the mental and physical well-being of people.
“Respondents in that study noted that green spaces needed to be cared for differently and that those responsible needed to take a silent, non-invasive and sustainable approach. We have embraced this through our concept of Silent Nature™ and a range of quiet but powerful tools that include chainsaws, trimmers, brush cutters and blowers. These rely on efficient and long-lasting lithium ion batteries that produce lower emissions while eliminating noise pollution,” explained Pieter.
But these tools are also being used to tackle bigger issues and challenges.
“For instance our hand-held lithium ion powered chainsaws are now the tool of choice for the courageous conservationists who are de-horning rhinos to discourage poachers. They are not only easy to carry but powerful enough to get this process completed as quickly and quietly as possible with minimal trauma to the animal.”
Pieter said that Husqvarna has taken sustainability a step further by launching a veld management division that is providing both the tools and the technology to help farmers, nature and conservation organisations, landowners and land managers to deal with land management challenges.
“It is only now that we are experiencing the sometimes devastating results of over 100 years of bad practices. We can see that drought, changes in rainfall patterns, bush encroachment, encroachment by alien invasive plants and other contributing factors brought on by climate change have all but changed land use in sub-Saharan Africa. That is before we even begin to address issues like over-grazing, soil erosion and poor water management.
“We realised that many of our open spaces and grasslands no longer look the way they used to. In fact, many no longer exist and have been overtaken by bush and forests that should never have been there in the first place. Sadly, this includes both alien and indigenous plants and means that we now have a responsibility to intervene to restore them to what they were.”
It is easier to quantify the impact of these changes in land cover in a farming context. Fewer healthy grasslands means fewer animals and dramatically reduces both the carrying capacity and profitability of farms with important consequences for food security. You can express that in numbers.
But Southern Africa is also very much a country of game farms and conservation. In South Africa alone, there are approximately 12 000 registered game farms. Many are rehabilitated farms whilst others have experienced the impact of poor land management over the years.
“We opened our veld management division four years ago to advise rather than criticise, and now have tangible results and examples of what can be achieved. Under the expert eye of Divan Vermaak, a game ranger and veld management expert, we have created strong relationships within both the agricultural and conservation communities,” continued Pieter.
What started at Tala Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal with a small piece of land that was opened up and converted to grassland where more animals could graze, has now grown to involve far larger projects.
“For starters, we have undertaken a large project in Namibia, a country which is grappling with about 54 million hectares of encroachment. Similarly, massive bush encroachment has also taken its toll on both agricultural and conservation land in neighbouring Botswana.
“While we do see the business value of restoring thousands of hectares of high-value land that is now seen as almost worthless, we also know that we are doing far more than can be reflected on a balance sheet,” he concluded.
For more information, visit www.husqvarna.co.za
Rhino pic to come from Shakila …
The Husqvarna battery-powered saw painlessly and quietly removes a rhino’s horn to protect it from poachers.