At the end of March, the petrochemicals group, Sasol, itself having to rapidly adapt to circumstances that have upended society and economies further impacting their existing financial difficulties including a sharp drop in the global price of oil and the impact of COVID-19 lockdown disaster measures implemented across the globe.
Although Sasol had a limited budget to reach out to their communities to make a difference given cash conservation measures applied within the company, they realised the importance of joining the fight.
‘Our need to support our the communities around our fenceline was also critical to support our operations as they are also the communities where many of our employees come from,’ says Sasol’s Vice President for Social Investment, Gao Mothoagae. So Sasol came up with a plan: They would leverage what they already had to make a significant contribution to the greater good.
Developing their own hand sanitisers
‘Our Research and Technology team was able to produce a unique blend of hand sanitiser at a low cost to the company,’ says Mothoagae. ‘We used the resources we already had – the ingredients, and the knowledge and skill to develop the formula.’
‘We then ramped up production on a large scale and were able to distribute it for free among within our own operations , to our employees and their families as well as to our communities including police stations, police checkpoints on the road, taxi ranks, hospitals and schools amongst others.’
Mothoagae says they also partnered with and upskilled one of the small and medium enterprises with which they already had a relationship, having been through Sasol’s Enterprise and supplier development program KSM chemicals, commissioning them to produce the hand sanitiser at a mass scale. ‘We gave them the formula, tools and the skills to produce the sanitiser. In further partnership with Imperial Logistics and AngloGold , the sanitiser formulation was further distributed to major hospitals in Gauteng and further partnerships with other corporates have resulted in it being distributed as far as the Eastern Cape. ‘To date Sasol has produced 608 000 litres of non-medical grade hand sanitiser (composed of active ingredients of 70% Ethanol and 3,5% Isopropanol) through its incubator KSM and also through the efforts of Sasol’s own Research and Technology departments in Sasolburg and Secunda providing more than 116 million beneficiary hand sanitations.
Making educational resources accessible
One of the core purposes of the Sasol Foundation Trust is to help ensure quality education for all, especially in disadvantaged communities.
‘When schools closed due to Covid-19, we once again leveraged what we already had the capacity of the Sasol Foundation Trust and the learning materials including text books that we developed some time ago and we digitised to support online learning,’ says Mothoagae.
‘We partnered with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Africa Teen Geeks to provide free online and interactive Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning for Grades R to 12 learners who could connect and access the digitised content and online lessons. Learners could continue their studies by accessing these resources online for free,’ explains Mothoagae.
Repurposing science vehicles
Science as part of STEM Education is a key part of the Sasol Foundation Trust’s educational programme and some years ago invested in a fleet of mobile science labs that regularly visit disadvantaged learners to enable them to conduct science experiments and practicals.
During lockdown, these vehicles were stationary as schools were closed. ‘We approached our partners, including the Department of Health, and made these vehicles available to support mass testing and screening of Covid-19 in our fenceline communities. Once again, we used what we already had – this time to help expand government’s reach in detecting Covid-19.’
Donating jet fuel
As airports closed down worldwide, many South Africans were stuck overseas and unable to get home. The government had to organise repatriation flights to bring citizens home. This was done at great cost to the country, but fortunately Sasol was able to step in and offer assistance .
‘We donated costly jet fuel to support repatriation flights to bring South African citizens back home and to transport essential medical supplies necessary in the fight against the virus..’
Although Sasol also made funds available to help face problems brought on by Covid-19, including our CEO contributing a third of his salary to the Solidarity Fund over a period of 3 months, Mothoagae believes that utilising their existing resources and through leveraging the power of partnerships contributed to their greatest efforts in the fight against Covid-19.