KenGen Shoulders Key Role in Advancing Sustainability in Africa
Kenya has been a leader in Africa in the introduction and application of sustainability-guided policies in myriad spheres of life, ranging from environmental protection, conservation, and labour laws as well as women’s rights and gender equality. The Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), which produces over 60% of the nation’s electricity, has played a prominent role in all of the above, helping to propel Kenya forward. As such, KenGen’s sustainability-oriented policy decisions provide several instructive lessons for other nations and companies across the African continent and the world over.
KenGen was incorporated in 1954 under the Kenyan Companies Act as Kenya Power Company (KPC). In January 1998, the Government of Kenya restructured the energy sector, separating generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity into distinct and autonomous functions. With this move, the management of KPC was separated from KPLC and renamed KenGen.By 2006, the company had made the largest Initial Public Offer in Kenyan history, effectively revolutionizing the local capital market. Thirty percent of what was formerly a government company was sold in that IPO, earning KenGen nearly 280,000 shareholders to whom it became accountable. This ongoing sense of public accountability has helped guarantee that the company remain true to its goals of providing a reliable supply of electricity that is competitively priced. It has also made an ongoing contribution to Kenya’s economic and social stability while routinely rewarding its shareholders with revenues.
KenGen’s Practical Green Steps
KenGen has enacted sustainability-oriented policies in conservation and environmental protection, embracing the Kyoto Protocol to draft its Clean Development Mechanism. The company has also made a point of planning and implementing green projects that are designed to contribute to reduced emissions. In addition to its nationwide goals of emission reduction and green projects, KenGen has simultaneously focused on contributing to the local communities near its facilities. In the past five years, it has given away 1.5 million saplings to advance afforestation programs and biodiversity efforts, all in the immediate vicinity of its larger projects. It has also addressed the challenges faced across extensive parts of rural Kenya in all that pertains to water and sanitation. Even further, it has done much to provide villages and towns near its plants with accessible water and sanitation solutions.
Comment by KenGen MD and CEO Rebecca Miano
Rebecca Miano, KenGen’s Managing Director and CEO, touched on the company’s commitment to sustainability in a recent statement, saying: “I am pleased to reaffirm our continued supports for the ten principles of the UN Global Compact on human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption. We are committed to making the Global Compact and its principles part of the strategy, culture, and routine operations of our company, and to engaging in collaborative projects, which advance the broader development goals of the United Nations, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
As indicated by MD Rebecca Miano’s official statement, she and KenGen take a broader view of sustainability, a view that extends well beyond the constraints of the physical environment. Mrs. Miano has crafted KenGen’s mission to include making a meaningful contribution to Kenya’s sustainability goals in all that pertains to the social sphere as well. In fact, KenGen describes itself as a “responsible corporate citizen,” a definition that informs many of its social policies. For example, KenGen has provided scholarships to over 700 high school and university students to help individual dreams come true while also empowering the community more broadly and helping to foster the next generation of Kenyan leaders, innovators, and professionals.
Fair and Equitable Employment Policies
Another facet of sustainability-oriented policies enacted by KenGen under MD Rebecca Miano’s stewardship is its decision to guarantee fair and equitable terms of employment that are above and beyond full compliance with local labour laws. That guarantee exceeds the usual provisions about fair wages and collective bargaining rights. It extends to policies on workplace safety, disability mainstreaming, and non-discrimination as well as health, including substance abuse and HIV in the workplace.
One of the central focuses on the non-discrimination policy at KenGen is to increase gender equality. The company’s stated objective in recruiting new staff is to provide equal opportunity to men and women by means of a combination of “competitive” and “fair” assessment and hiring processes. Currently, more than a full quarter of all KenGen employees are women in what traditionally has been a male-dominated industry, and their numbers are only expected to continue to rise.
The Meaning of Sustainability
As Managing Director and CEO Miano explained in her statement on KenGen’s goals, “sustainability is how to manage and operate a business to improve lives, environment, benefits, and long-term prosperity. This ensures corporate efficiency and responsibility in a manner that secures the future for employees, communities, shareholders, the environment, and the nation as a whole.” The sustainability-oriented policies that KenGen has enacted in the spheres of environmental protection, conservation, terms of employment, and gender equality have all contributed significantly to the national effort to march the Republic of Kenya forward. They have also provided several instructive lessons for other companies and countries in Africa and beyond.