Posted in Insights

Eco-advantage in 2019: Ways to reduce waste in your business

No business wants its hard-earned resources mismanaged – none at all. But oftentimes, financial resources get all the ‘pampering’. Smart businesses are now looking beyond the financial aspect of their operations to remain relevant. Real benefits can come from seeing things in a new light. One of such benefits is resource efficiency through enhanced waste management.

Going by the explanation of Andrew S. Winston and Daniel Esty in their book Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value and Build Competitive Advantage, taking one step further by viewing the entire business through an environmental lens can show previously hidden sources of waste thereby preventing unnecessary expenses from the beginning.

Waste can present itself in different forms – time, money, personnel, and physical resources. However, the scope of the write up is around sources of wastes in construction and manufacturing. Let’s look at common sources of waste and what we can do about them.

Common sources of waste

  • Unused raw materials: This happens when the budget for line items get overestimated and leads to excessive procurement.
  • Product defects: This happens when the product does not conform to the required specification. A typical example is a wrong calculation in the measurements of ingredients for a cosmetic product. A supposed body butter might come out like a lotion and might render the entire production batch unfit for packaging leading to a waste of resources and man-hours.
  • Poor service delivery: This happens a lot in the construction industry when measurements and instructions are not followed to the letter. Oftentimes, a rework is needed. There is a waste of time, money, materials and manpower.
  • Non-compliance with regulatory standards: This happens when businesses try to cut corners to avoid the ‘cost’ of environmental management. It can also happen when there is no transparency in the supply chain like Sony experienced in its 2001 Cadmium Crisis.

So, what can be done?

  1. Take it to the boardroom: Sounds too extra right? It’s not. All stakeholders need to be carried along with the new development. The persons in charge of business management, procurement, supervision, and environmental management (if there is any) can present a case for certain investments in strategic waste management.
  2. Be conversant with existing regulations: The Sony Cadmium Crisis cost the company $160M in returned products and 18 months invested in investigating 6000 factories to identify the source of the error.
  3. Educate the workforce: They are the ones in charge of ensuring excellent product and service delivery. Periodic training and newsletters can help to buy them into the vision of preventing waste at all levels. If there is any environmental representative, charge them to have call-to-action posters at strategic places – corridors, restrooms, and beside light switches.
  4. Ensure a transparent procurement/supply chain: Every line item has to be integral to the success of the business. Negotiate your way to cheaper deals. Cheap doesn’t always mean low quality.
  5. Audit the waste stream: This should present no trouble once the procurement process is clear. If there are estimation errors from procurement, check with suppliers if you can return for a refund or if the items can be used at a later date for similar jobs. Excess materials must be recorded and stored properly. This would be the first place to visit whenever procurement needs arise.

Doing well by doing good

Outside all of these, it is important to be proactive. Even when there are no enforced regulatory standards, you can do well by doing good. Employing strategic environmental management gives room for innovation and competitive advantage when done correctly. You also get to smile to the bank in the long term.




Posted in Insights

We need stable and functional families to foster inclusive societies.

A family is the basic unit of what makes a society.  The functionality and stability of families however determines the extent of development of any society. Individuals make up families and properly trained individuals are key to driving inclusive societies.

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Functional families are key to achieving inclusive societies.

Let me break this down a little more.

We all look forward to a society where everyone is valued irrespective of their differences in gender, class, religious beliefs, ideologies and castes. In 2009, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs defined social inclusion as “a process by which efforts are made to ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of their background so that they can achieve their full potential in life. It is a multi-dimensional process aimed at creating conditions which enable full and active participation of every member of the society in all aspects of life, including civic, social, economic, and political activities, as well as participation in decision-making processes”.

I am sure you got that. Let us move over to what a functional family looks like.

First of all, I would love to explain what a family unit is. When I was younger, we were taught that a family is a group of people related by blood. Growing up, I understood that a man and his wife are not related by blood and they are the ones who “produce” members of a family. In my own head, I redefined what a family is and it goes – A family is a group of people related by blood or by marriage. I don’t share the same blood with my husband and we are family.

Moving forward, a functional family is one that has its foundation laid in the teaching of correct principles, love concern, time, guidance and help. It is one with which there is a feeling of safety and security. The importance of the family unit has also been highlighted by the former UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-Moon, “by providing economic and emotional sustenance to their members, families can raise productive, caring citizens committed to the common good.” He went further to say that “well-functioning families, whatever form they may take, can help reduce poverty, improve the well being of mothers, promote gender equality and uphold human rights.” It is clear that to achieve any of the Sustainable Development Goals, the stability of the family unit as an entity has to be upheld.
The instability and lack of functionality within families have produced inefficient employees, suicidal students, rebellious wives, wicked husbands, disobedient children, bad & corrupt leaders, terrorists, armed robbers and any other societal ill one can think of. What makes the situation worse is that it is a vicious cycle. These societal ills further cause disintegration and instability in families. To break the cycle, the millennial generation of parents need to retrace their steps in upholding the values of functional families so that we don’t end up with bitter children. We need to let our children understand that we can start building inclusive societies, one family at a time.

I have officially been a parent for four years and I can tell you that if we all teach our children the right things, the future of sustainable development is very bright. It is as simple as teaching them the importance of saying “thank you” “I’m sorry” “please” and other simple courtesies by your own conduct.

The generation of our parents are leaving us gradually, we and our kids are the future and we can build it into what we want, one family at a time.





Posted in Insights

#Opinion: Linking Safety with #Sustainability

It’s quite interesting to know that a number of corporations are beginning to think beyond making money. As a matter of fact, making money for a long period of time would not be feasible without considering social and environmental issues in any strategy for sustainability. During sustainability discussions, a lot of focus is placed on environmental issues with social components of sustainability being limited to volunteerism and philanthropy. The latter is usually taken care of by the traditional CSR sections of businesses. I talked about this and how the narrative can be changed here.

In another yet to be published article I am co-writing with a partner, I discussed the importance of human resource management towards driving sustainability. Workplace health and safety comes under the social component of sustainability or corporate sustainability as this case may be. People are critical to the success of any business. They are ones that drive business operations. Just as money is an importance resource, so are humans.

Going the extra mile

Certain industries have been identified with taking safety seriously – oil and gas, construction and manufacturing for obvious reasons such as company image and compliance. This would not be the case if safety as a value is part of their strategy for sustainability as a business. There is a need to go beyond compliance and see safety as a means to ensuring efficient operations irrespective of business size and type of operations.

Safety as a foundation for sustainable growth

According to Adam Werbach, the CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi S, the engagement of employees is important in a journey towards sustainability. The chief executive or the human resource manager cannot do it alone. Only a safe and healthy workforce can perform their duties efficiently. Safety is also about eliminating waste – waste of time, human effort and profit that is lost as a result of accident and illnesses. The sustainable growth of a business cannot be achieved with inefficiencies.

The SDGs and Worker Health and Safety

Out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals that came into force officially in January 2016, goals 8 and 12 have direct and indirect links with the welfare of workers as has been highlighted below:

#8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

  • Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.
  • Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms
  • By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value

#12: Responsible Consumption and Production

  • By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment
  • Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.

The way forward

Moving forward, any business no matter the size (had to reiterate the size because a lot of small business do not take employee safety very seriously), should gradually reassess their business strategies, seek professional help as to getting their lapses sorted out. Taking safety seriously is a way of retaining employees and making them happier to work with you. Every business wants to do more with less and eliminating the hidden costs of accidents and sick leaves is one sure way achieve that.

I am not promising that it is going to be a smooth ride but it is surely going to be worth it in the end.

Posted in Insights

Curbing food waste: A right step in ending world hunger and malnutrition


I will start by letting you on some key facts about food loss I found on the website of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s website.

  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
  • Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
  • Industrialized and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
  • Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
  • Global quantitative food losses and waste per year are roughly 30% for cereals, 40-50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 35% for fish.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
  • Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.

Oxfam Canada has it that the world produces 17% more food per person than it did 30 years ago. So where is all the food going if we still have close to a billion people hungry and malnourished? Well, the simple answer is roughly one-third of food produced globally gets lost or wasted according to the Food and Agricultural Organization. The big question now is how does food get wasted or lost and what can be done about it?


How does food get wasted?

Thinking top of my head I would mention 3 ways – On the farm, during transportation and at the consumers’ end. Let’s take them one after the other.

  • On the farm: How many people want ugly fruits and vegetables? We have food grades and standards that farm produce must pass before they are shelf-worthy. Some produce are too big, not shiny, scarred or simply not well formed. A lot of place so much emphasis on the beauty of the fruits and vegetables which has led some desperate farmers to inject produce with chemicals to increase their sizes and wash some produce with harmful chemicals to make them shiny and attractive.
  • During transportation: Different farm produce require various temperatures to preserve them naturally post-harvest. Strawberries for example are very delicate and are temperature sensitive. They can be easily destroyed during transportation if the right conditions are not met. Bad road networks (especially in Nigeria) can cause trucks hauling juicy watermelons to skid, breaking loads of watermelons that could have been sent to my house (I really love watermelons).
  • At the consumers’s end: This is very common in developed countries and the high income areas of developing countries. We overbuy sometimes, forget in the refrigerator and then the produce doesn’t seem fresh anymore and….away it goes! into the bin. Resources have been expended in growing, harvesting, transporting and buying these binned produce and in the landfill, it contributes to methane production which is bad for the environment.

What can be done?

  • First of all, ugly doesn’t mean bad or less nutritious. Lets bring down our aesthetic standards for food. Its pushing some unfaithful farmers to coat fruits and vegetables with harmful substances.
  • Commit to end food waste by starting with your grocery list. You do not need to buy everything you see. Buy what you need. Only buy in bulk when you have means of preserving them for time you will be needing them.
  • Donate excesses to neighbors, charities when you realize they might go to waste.
  • Make beautiful smoothies with fruits and vegetables that won’t look presentable on the plate, give some to that hungry boy down the road, his stomach and the bin would thank you.
  • Better infrastructure should be provided for storage and transportation of farm produce. Good roads, refrigeration on transit, good vehicles and excellent journey management should be on any Agricultural ministry’s list.

With these, we would be in the right direction towards providing food for the world’s hungry, one country at a time.

PS: My smoothie and juice making journey started because I did not want to toss away ugly or non-plate worthy fruits!