Skills development and sustainable energy

Published: FY2023

Pepkor leads the way in skills development and sustainable energy 

Pepkor provided more than 2 700 learnerships in FY23 through the Pepkor Retail Learning  Academy. Additionally, the group reported significant cost and carbon emissions savings in electricity through the widespread adoption of LED lights and solar energy implemented at 68 sites.

A dual focus on skills development
With its expansive presence, Pepkor acknowledges its unique responsibility to drive positive change and economic opportunity within the communities it serves. South Africa is a country grappling with high unemployment rates, especially among the youth. While Pepkor has historically offered skills development for its employees, the realisation of the need for accredited programmes to create lasting impact led to the establishment of the Pepkor Retail Learning Academy in 2019.

The academy is an Accredited Skills Development Training Provider with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), offering legacy and occupational learnership qualifications. The qualifications not only enhance the skills of existing employees across Pepkor operating businesses, paving their pathway for growth, but also extend opportunities beyond its current workforce.

Educational opportunities are extended to both Pepkor employees and unemployed individuals. The current split between these two groups is 60% employed and 40% unemployed.

“The learnership programme encompasses classroom learning (30%) and practical workplace experience (70%), with participants being employed by our business for the duration,” says Estelle Morkel, Pepkor Group HR executive. “Those not absorbed into our workforce gain invaluable work experience and earn a nationally recognised certificate in retail-related operations, significantly enhancing their employability.”

History of exceeding expectations
Annually, Pepkor aims to provide 2 700 learnerships. For the current year, the group again exceeded its target by supporting 4 100 learners. Notably, 700 spots were reserved for the unemployed with disabilities. The demographics of our learners were 99% from previously disadvantaged groups, of which 60% were female. Pepkor will continue to aim to achieve a minimum target annually of 2 700 learnerships.

Dual focus on combating youth unemployment as well as fostering a ‘road to green’

Pepkor’s focus on sustainability extends to two critical threads, each making a substantial positive impact in its own right. The Pepkor Retail Learning Academy is dedicated to empowering existing employees with the knowledge and capabilities needed for personal and professional growth. Through learnerships, the workforce gains valuable skills and expertise, aligning with Pepkor’s core purpose of “making a positive difference in the lives of our customers”.

Concurrently, Pepkor’s dedication to sustainability extends beyond skills development. The group’s LED lighting and solar projects are designed to contribute to a more energy-efficient and low-carbon future. These initiatives not only reduce environmental impact but also pave the way for a greener tomorrow.

Pieter Erasmus, CEO of Pepkor, emphasises the importance of these efforts, stating, “We are committed to ‘building better business’ to serve our customers better, uplift communities, empower individuals, and reduce our environmental impact. Sustainability is not just a goal; it’s aligned with our core purpose of “making a positive difference in the lives of our customers”.

Navigating responsible consumption amid energy challenges
Pepkor’s pledge to ‘build better business’ resonates with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where responsible consumption and production are paramount. “In South Africa, we are faced with significant energy challenges, with a strained electricity supply that affects both businesses and communities”, Erasmus adds.

Pepkor’s LED projects, spanning across operating businesses, stand as a testament to its commitment to SDG 12 to enhance energy efficiencies. This initiative not only addresses cost reduction and efficiency but also champions environmental responsibility in that LED lights save up to 34% in electricity use by lights in stores. The results have been extraordinary, with substantial energy savings achieved year after year and cost benefits passed on to our customers through affordable products and services.

In 2023, the group’s electricity consumption from the grid amounted to 223 657 MWh, reflecting its operational needs. This surge in the adoption of LED lighting generated savings of  17 303 MWh in 2023. These savings equated to a carbon emission reduction of 28 192 tCO2e, the equivalent electricity saving required to charge 3.4 billion cellphones.

At the same time, the group has introduced more renewable energy sources and invested R62 million in solar PV projects in 2023, taking the total installed solar capacity in the group to 6 MWp. The aim is to install an additional 2.5 MWp in 2024. These key investments provide uninterrupted power for our operations, reducing Pepkor’s demand from the grid in the long term and making sure that the group can continue serving its customers.

In embracing sustainability initiatives, Erasmus says that Pepkor is uniquely positioned in communities and in the South African environment to make a substantial positive impact that enables affordable living and fosters inclusive growth.