Fuel Cells – Powering Reputations in South African Platinum
- Companies investing in platinum cell technology are best placed to capitalise on positive sentiment around transforming the mining industry in South Africa.
- Technology trials in South Africa see the best reputational gains from sharing messages around positive social impact and safeguarding future profitability.
Platinum fuel cell technology as a reputational opportunity
A potential saving grace exists for the reputation of the mining sector, as South Africa seeks to find a more sustainable model for its greatest economic contributor. The world’s three largest platinum producers; Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum have recently all invested in platinum fuel cell technology, a means of generating electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen over a platinum catalyst, and have all won significant positive media coverage for their efforts to do so.
The adoption of PGM fuel cell technology has numerous reputational benefits. It’s potential to improve the profitability of the sector through creating new demand for platinum, in addition to its potential use providing power for local communities could improve perceptions of the platinum industry with both local communities and investors. The key challenge and opportunity for communications and corporate affairs functions across the platinum industry is harnessing this potential and utilising it to protect and enhance reputation for years to come.
Social impact and economic beneficiation as the strongest messages for tech launches in SA
Positive messages around community benefits have so far been the most significant catalyst in boosting the reputational impact of technology trials, especially when this has been linked to the wider transformation of the mining industry in South Africa. Making the issue relevant to both communities and investors has been a key source of reputational value.
Anglo American Platinum’s trial of the technology with Ballard Power Systems drove exceptionally positive discussion of Anglo Platinum’s work to improve rural electrification. This link between new technology and social impact resulted in the event registering as the most positive technology launch in the platinum sector for 2014, and propelled the company into first place in alva’s Platinum Sector reputation ranking*.
Impala Platinum linking its April 2015 PGM fuel cell launch to messages around dealing with South Africa’s power constraints and to developing new markets for platinum was also a particularly successful strategy, driving positive financial media coverage and helped the company reach a year-to-date high in alva’s Platinum Sector reputation ranking*.
Investors and local communities as key reputational stakeholders for fuel cell technology
The future impact of the technology in improving the reputation of the platinum industry; both with investors and miners, should not be underestimated. Companies linking their technology trials to part of a wider community investment program, and to messages around future profitability and stability are likely to capitalise the most on the reputational benefits of the technology. Optimism is what the platinum sector needs at present, and where a new technology is synonymous with alleviating inequality and improving future profitability it is only reasonable to expect it to resonate with some of the sector’s most important stakeholders.
– Christopher Cleves
*If you would like more information about alva’s reputation rankings please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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