People | 11 May 2021 | By Sun International

Taking Sustainability by the Horn

Jannette Horn remains set on extending the “people, profit, planet” mantra through Sun International, four years after launching the company’s sustainability division

Some 90% of executives find sustainability to be important in ensuring a competitive edge and company longevity, according to a MIT survey. Values like inclusion, empathy and environmental preservation are now more entrenched than ever in the corporate sector.

As corporate sustainability continues to gather momentum, Sun International is fortunate to have Jannette Horn leading the charge to create long-term shared value for the business, employees, affected communities, and the environment. 

Stalwart of sustainability

The Group Sustainability Manager boasts 24 years’ environmental and sustainability experience across mining, infrastructure, engineering, and manufacturing industries. She actively participates in and supports the National Business Initiative and the World Wide Fund for Nature, both voluntary coalitions of companies working towards sustainable growth and development.

A graduate of the University of Johannesburg’s inaugural BSc in Environmental Management programme, Horn was recruited by Sun International Group Company Secretary Andrew Johnston, a former colleague at tech company Altron, to build the group’s sustainability division from the ground up four years ago.

“The penny has dropped. Our new strategy is a detailed roadmap that has the buy-in of all stakeholders. Our executives see the long-term benefit in these projects."

“I’d consulted for 15 years on various environmental management issues, but decided that corporate was the right fit. The call from Andrew to join Sun International came at the perfect time. In putting the division together, we had to combine environmental, health and safety, and socio-economic development resources. We used a silo approach in the first year to establish baselines, but were fully integrated from then on. 

“This is what really kickstarted our strategy. Now, for example, if we do community outreach projects, we consider and incorporate environment, and health and safety initiatives. Sustainability commitment has to be driven from the top and this is evident in Sun International’s appointment of specialists and practitioners at all units. The central office sustainability team along with dedicated sustainability practitioners at the units, successfully drives and implements initiatives on the ground,” smiles Horn. 

Pioneering projects

The seamless integration of these sustainability strands remains one of Horn’s proudest achievements and many of the projects in the team’s 2025 strategy build on this solid foundation. Notable pioneering efforts include a sustainability manual containing the group’s first strategy and targets, the online health and safety and environmental system documenting incidents in real time and facilitating compliance, and fun e-learning videos using Sun International staff.

The division, which is tasked with producing the group’s annual reports, aims to develop a new stakeholder engagement strategy and continue the remarkable success of its Mandela Day feeding scheme and adopt-a-school programmes. Horn is particularly excited about the solar energy project, which has been piloted at Sibaya and will now be extended to other properties, and the group’s zero-waste to landfill initiatives.

“The penny has dropped. Our new strategy is a detailed roadmap that has the buy-in of all stakeholders. Our executives see the long-term benefit in these projects. We’re not doing them because we have to, but because there are multiple benefits, from cost savings to fewer complaints, improved reputation and gaining support from the gaming board,” she explains.

A strict taskmaster who “gets the job done”, Horn’s managerial approach is centred on passion, commitment, and big picture thinking. “I don’t claim to be an expert in any single discipline. My strength lies in linking aspects to the bigger picture of how a company needs to sustain itself. I get involved in all aspects of the business, pull things together to recognise the impact and work on a solution. The team must lead by example, doing things right and on time. It’s an inclusive output-driven approach that considers every voice,” she explains.

Pause for the pandemic

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic provided a litmus test for sustainability systems, as the division was placed front and centre amid dwindling revenues and urgent protocols.

“We really kicked into fifth gear with COVID-19. It was a challenging time, but because of the groundwork laid with our structures, it was easy to implement health and safety requirements and make adjustments quickly. We had the opportunity to assess systems and upgrades, rewriting policies and rebooting our strategy with specific targets from COVID-19 learnings. Through the commitment and hard work from our health and safety teams and with the guidance of Health, Safety and Wellness Specialist, Sheena O’Brien, we ended up winning an award for our response plan and gaining recognition across the group,” says Horn.

“Corporates and governments can regulate and enforce, but if we don’t have a personal sense of responsibility and can’t see the benefits and impact of our actions, we’ll always be behind the curve."

The satisfaction of knowing that her division’s robust systems pass muster wasn’t the only positive thing coming out of the pandemic for Horn – the Gauteng-born visionary also focused on her physical health and the value of family time to negate lockdown excesses. A keen golfer who has taken on the Wild Coast Sun and Gary Player courses, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons. “I’m passionate about my family. We’re always going away and doing things together. We make the perfect fourball,” she smiles.   

How does the average person help the world stay on course for a sustainable future? Ultimately, says Horn, it comes down to individual action and educating the future custodians of the planet. 

“Corporates and governments can regulate and enforce, but if we don’t have a personal sense of responsibility and can’t see the benefits and impact of our actions, we’ll always be behind the curve. We can’t begin to repair the damage we’ve done until we’ve changed our mindsets. Lead by example – every bit counts.”


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