Posted in Lifestyle

Small Business, Big Impact: MSMEs and Environmental Management

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Large corporations have received a lot of attention in recent times regarding environmental responsibility. Environmental management has now become a board room issue in most large organizations as erring has become detrimental to their reputation with a high risk of environmental liabilities. In contrast, micro, small and medium enterprises have received little or no attention regarding considering the impacts of their operations on the environment. This group of stakeholders are key players in the progress of large organizations as they are the main contractors and vendors in their supply chains.

MSMEs contribute immensely to economic growth, development and job creation as much as they also have significant social and environmental impacts. It is important to note that MSMEs are not restricted to structured enterprises with 10-50 staff members, they include street vendors, food sellers, businesses run from home, petrol stations and several service providers – car wash, salons etc. A report by the Vanguard newspaper in 2015 has it that MSMEs in Nigeria employed 60million people, contributing to 48% of the nation’s GDP.

The economic and social contributions of MSMEs have been well quantified and understood as opposed their environmental impact, which has received little attention. Smaller businesses, in the true of things have lesser environmental footprints when compared to larger businesses. However, their impact becomes very significant when considered collectively. This is very evident in developing countries like Nigeria where old and crude methods are still widely used in providing various services. Charcoal and firewood is still used by a lot of food vendors, the use of the filament bulb that consumes so much energy is still very common due to its cheaper price. Some studies have indicated that the contribution of MSMEs to local pollution levels can be as much as 70% and generating as much as 60% of commercial waste.

Some of the reasons why MSMEs are not on environmental responsibility is because in most cases, especially in Nigeria, they can pay their ways through just to get the paper work done for regulatory purposes. A lot of them do not even know and have failed to realise the detrimental effects of their poor environmental management. Unlike the bigger counterparts, MSMEs are less susceptible to reputational risk. Also a lot of them are more interested in short term gains regardless of the effects of their activities while pursuing that.

The introduction of the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles has been a breath of fresh air as some banks are beginning to add environmental/sustainability management structures as a requirement for vendor registration. It is hoped that microfinance houses that cater to these micro ventures adopt the NSBP and with one step at a time, businesses would better understand the importance of environmental management. Another good thing is that a lot of these micro businesses now have trade unions that would be very instrumental to conveying the importance of their activities in achieving sustainable environmental management.

Posted in Lifestyle

Minimalism: Living more with less.

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Quite a number of people are gradually changing the perception they have about consumption. People are gradually beginning to drift towards “doing more with less”. Just in case you have not heard, minimalism is the practice of addressing your needs strictly without entertaining your unnecessary wants in their true sense. This does not only save you time, it also prevents your pocket from shrinking too fast.

A lot of us buy what we do not need, only to end up throwing it out after a long time. The popular Mile 12 market was featured a few years ago to be have recorded 45% of the waste that is generated as food waste and The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 233 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry/undernourished in 2014-6. That is for food.

How about clothes? I was speaking with a friend who is getting married soon and was quite impressed by her stand on 3 things to be used for the wedding – her ring, her shoes and her wedding dress. She told me she would be trading off her engagement ring in exchange for a new wedding ring instead buying a new one and keeping the other for inventory. Her shoes were bought on sale and were as simply designed that she cold wear them for other occasions. Lastly, her wedding is so simply designed that it would pass for any other evening occasion.

I know a lot of ladies would disagree with me on the wedding accessories but I have a question. What drives the quest for all the expensive stuff attached to a wedding ceremony? Its mostly societal pressure and the feeling of belonging to a particular class. A lot of us have our closets full of clothes we have not touched for years ( I mean it) and we still find ourselves spending precious time trying to figure out what to wear. We do not just subject ourselves to mental stress but we also waste time and energy that could have been spent on other productive things.

One popular Nigerian actor was recently quoted to have defied the celebrity norm of impressing society by wearing expensive designer clothes and shoes. He was reported to decided henceforth to go for comfortable, simply designed clothes with or without the labels. People care a lot about how they are perceived with respect to material things. The race continues to be tougher and competition is stiffer such that people forget to live. They toil day and night, get their hands in dirty stuff just to get the new designer shoes to show off on IG and Snapchat and when the expected attention is not gotten they feel like they have failed then become suicidal.

If we can get the right perception about living, to tackle waste in all its form would become issue. We would have a society that has its people to be conscious consumers, getting only what they need thus reducing what goes into trash.

 

Posted in Lifestyle

Living in Lagos? You have a role to play in achieving a cleaner Lagos!

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upshotreports.com

It’s a new dawn in the waste management sector of Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence – Lagos State. The Cleaner Lagos Initiative in partnership with world renowned waste management professionals, Visionscape Group are gradually bringing the dream Lagos to existence. This is particularly good news because we know how inversely proportional the number of people living in Lagos State is to the size of the state. This has resulted in a strain on the amenities provided to ensure we have a clean and safe environment to live in. The sight of the new trucks, electronically tracked bins, compactors etc. is a beauty to behold.

Now we can say the government has tried in willing to provide the facilities we need to achieve a clean environment. However, the bulk of the job lies with us – the residents of Lagos state to cooperate with and compliment the efforts of the state government. It is our civic duty to follow the regulations regarding waste and environmental management. It is NOT absurd to hold on to trash – drink cans, bottles, and wrappers until you can locate an appropriate bin to properly dispose it. You might think “it’s just a bottle” but it is way beyond that. That one bottle or plastic bag you toss on the road or in the drainage would find its way into a larger water body i.e. a stream, pond or even the Atlantic Ocean and some large aquatic animals can mistake it as food, ingest it, get choked or perhaps even die as a result. That’s just one item. We see all sorts of plastic bags, wraps and cups on our roads when it rains heavily and the drainages are blocked, forcing the trash to mount on roads. We are the ones who suffer the consequences of floods – accidents, faulty cars, high traffic congestions, water-borne illnesses as a result of stagnant water. So its like what we do coming right back to us. We see it as insignificant because its takes little or no effort to litter and improperly dispose waste.

It takes cumulative effort to litter and also same to stop littering. I always ask anyone I am talking to about littering few questions:

  • Can you throw trash on your bed?
  • Can you throw trash in your water tanks?
  • Can you mix trash with your soups?

The answers come in negative. By littering, we are doing the above mentioned acts of contaminating vital resources indirectly. You do not need to be literate or educated to understand the simple logic in not littering.

Not everyone will have the privilege to see this small write up but please if you are reading this, share the points with your neighbours, take time to let the adamant ones (I have some around my area) see the sense in what we are advocating for.

Itesiwaju Eko lo jewa logun – The continuous progress of Lagos State is of utmost priority to us.

If we can get it right in Lagos State, every other state in Nigeria can!

Posted in Lifestyle

Sustainable businesses look beyond corporate social responsibility

Business sustainability and CSR have been used interchangeably for a while. The experts say there are differences between the two. A company that has its hands on numerous CSR initiatives would not necessarily pass for a sustainable business.

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Source: invisiblenature.ro

Lets start by understanding what a sustainable business is. A sustainable business is one that would remain profitable for a long time. For a business to run successfully, it would need resources – human, natural and financial. These three resources need to be managed optimally for a business to maintain its position in the market. Natural resources are depleting fast and there is an urgent need for businesses to develop and execute strategies to remain in business. These strategies would cut across all functions –  human resource, procurement, supply chain, facility management, finance etc.

CSR on the other hand is based on the premise of ethics. A business operates in a community and is responsible for providing certain amenities to the community. An example is the MTN Foundation by MTN.  Their own CSR is focused on education. Another one is the Sterling Bank Environment Makeover and RECYCLART by Sterling bank which are focused on waste management. All these are good and part of achieving sustainability because CSR helps with good reputation in host communities and countries. But thats not all.

In addition to CSR, a business that wants to be sustainable would have the principles of resource efficiency at the core of their activities because resources are scarce and limited. Resources need to be used in ways that would enable businesses of today remain for a long time without depriving the businesses that would be created in future the ability to also thrive successfully. Communities where oil spillage have occurred would prefer that the oil giants design more efficient extraction methods that would amount to little or no spills and damage to the ecosystem than an educational facility because the facility would not optimally function in a highly polluted environment.

Why are sustainability strategies important for businesses now?

According to the United Nations, by 2050, global population will grow to about 9 billion people – all needing access to healthy food, water, good shelter etc. Businesses are perceived as major entities with the capability to meet the environmental challenges facing the world now. A recent report by ThomsonReuters has it that the G250 are responsible for approximately one-third of the world’s carbon emissions and effectively mitigating long term risks of climate change would be stalled if these group do not reduce their emissions. The G250  has companies in oil & gas, utility, automotive, cement, aircraft, manufacturing, steel, mining etc. The full report can be found here.

For existing businesses, especially those whose activities are carbon-intensive, shifting the course of business towards sustainability is not a feat to be achieved in a short while. It will involve a high level of disruption in normal business procedures. In the words of Richard Branson, its “screwing business as usual”. Depending on the scale of a business and the processes involved, little changes all add up. Turning off unused lights, more efficient supply chain, cleaner products, fixing leaking pipes and taps, carpooling are ways to start. In fact, the kind of foods served during meetings and lunches should reflect a commitment to sustainable consumption and a healthy workforce. Maintaining a healthy workforce reduces the number of times workers are absent from work which save the company money and man hours. Legal liabilities do not have to show up before compliance is practiced. However for new businesses, the earlier it is part of their strategy, the better. Having said this, to start with the transformation in the case of existing businesses, the most important step is getting the full support of top management. These people must understand sustainability as it relates to business success for it to yield tangible results. When the management has it as a culture, it resonates all through the business sub units.

It might be hard at first and that is why it is of essence that the key players and decision makers need to know and understand that practicing sustainability is not tantamount to reduced profitability. This way, it’s easier to engage staff, customers and even suppliers – this will extend to assessing suppliers’ operations for sustainability. It will also extend to the personal lives of members of staff and consumers.

As time goes on, all processes will be inclined towards doing more with less. Less waste, less procurement and increased cost savings. We will make more profit when our processes produce less waste which will in turn be conserving limited resources. This same report mentioned above has it that “There is no evidence that executing decarbonization strategies results in a financial penalty, including reduction in total shareholder returns, reduction in profitability or employment, or other common measures of value. Second, there is emerging evidence of companies driving business opportunity, competitive differentiation and value creation through effective execution of climate-impact management strategies“.

It might be difficult for businesses especially small businesses to see that sustainable production can be less expensive because a lot of them think about the short term gains at the expense of long term sustainability. This is particularly unethical for business since ethics demand that we do what is right to everyone and in everything.

For businesses that have focused on CSR and thinking it makes them sustainable, it’s never too late to go back to the drawing board and drive environmental stewardship, resource & operational efficiency, transparency, talent management and accountability into their core. Sustainability is applicable to all scales of businesses so size is not a barrier.

Building a hospital would not reverse the effects of oil spills.

Entrepreneurs do not see obstacles and problems, they see opportunities to innovate and innovation is driven by sustainability.