In 1999, he took office as the Environment and Tourism Minister of South Africa. In this position, he has worked to raise the awareness of the problem of litter, jokingly naming plastic shopping bags the "national flower" and pushing to introduce a minimum legal thickness of 30 micrometres to increase their cost, reusability, and recyclability. He was elected President of IUCN — the World Conservation Union at the 3rd World Conservation Congress in Bangkok in November 2004. He was also non-executive Chairman of Eskom and Sun International.
In April 2013,he was appointed the Independent Non-executive Chairman of Anglo American Platinum company.