Collins Nyamadzawo, Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders 2016
Some of the gaming people here might be familiar with was is called the “Cadmium Crisis” of December 2001. This was a time when 1.3 million boxes of Sony Play station games where blocked for shipment world-over by the Dutch Government from a storage warehouse, this was at the time the Sony management thought their product will be on the store shelves before Christmas. Was it some trade war or embargo against violent video games? I’am sure the Sony management where hoping it was something that easy to rectify. This was because of a small but legally unacceptable amount of Cadmium discovered in the cables of the game controls, the losses were so huge. In replacing the cables and inspecting all 6 000 factories in an 18 month period lost US$130 Million and have since vowed never to be caught unaware of environmental issues again. The lesson from this experience is that: The environment is not a fringe issue, it can cost businesses real money.
Let’s face the facts here: The business world and the natural world are inextricably linked, it’s no longer business as usual in 2015. Prof Daniel Esty and Andrew Winston wrote, “To put it more simply every product known to mankind has come from something either been grown or mined.” The clothes you are wearing came from cotton plants, the chair you are sitting came from either wood or steel, the paper was once a tree, the ink came from Soya Beans, thus the environment provides critical support to the economic system which is natural capital. Our ability to prosper as a nation and a human race is confined to the limits of the natural world. If we attempt to approach these limits we constrain business operations, realign markets and even threaten the earth’s well-being.
This article comes at a time when most parts of the Sub-Saharan region are experiencing drought due inconsistent rainfall as a result of Climate Change. It is recorded that the total amount of rainfall has not changed much but it is the pattern of rainfall that has changed and have completely dashed farmers and people’s hopes of harvesting anything meaningful. Our poor countries are now faced with water scarcity, ozone layer depletion, rising temperatures, hunger and floods. Whether or not we do something about it, the effects are knocking at our doorsteps and they cannot be ignored forever. The “Environmental Thinking” has initiated “The Green Wave” globally which calls for national and cooperate strategies to include environmental sustainability of operations.
World over especially in developed countries we are seeing most companies both mega and start-up companies investing so much in order to be smart companies. In this day and age smart companies are seizing competitive advantage through strategic management of environmental challenges. In 2009 Wal-Mart announced that it was going to cut its energy consumption by 30% through energy efficiency by 2015 and they have already attained their target and intend to use 100% renewable energy in the future. For a company of that magnitude and size, their actions can greatly offset a huge amount of carbon dioxide being emitted and will send a huge message to both their suppliers and consumers. With all the events happening around us, building a company with recognized values has become the competitive advantage because that also attracts the best people, improves brand value and builds trust with customers.
We have companies in our countries that have gone for years dumping toxic elements and no-one saying anything about it because they feel they are the only person and can achieve little but as Malala Yousfazai put it, “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” I have seen forestry companies burning their wood shavings in open air filling the air with half burnt carbon monoxide infested smoke for days and the surrounding communities have to live with that. Coal companies that just blow waste pulverized coal into the air and these then go into neighborhoods polluting swimming pools, rooftops, drying laundry to mention a few. Production companies, municipalities dumping chemical and sewage waste in rivers killing aqua life, all of them not caring about the consequences of their actions. That is the reason why today Environmental Performance should be an overall indicator of Management Quality within any company. Environmental Issues are not a luxury item rich people have to worry about, if that was the case you would have to look at the case of Celulosa Arauco’s $1.4 billion Valvidia pulp and paper mill in Chile. They had been dumping for years untreated waste in the local wetlands until their actions were implicated in the deaths of thousands of swans, the Government shut down the plant for a month and fined it $10 million and it had to further shut down for 2 months to fix the problem and fired the Executive as a result. Beverage and soft drinks companies have experienced riots in some countries over water usage and abuse and people should always remind themselves that natural resources are the assets on the planetary balance sheet.
Farmers need to be mindful of their land-use patterns, water usage and the type of fertilizer they are using if all these encourage the existence of the next millennium.
As an entrepreneur, retailer, service provider, consultant there are issues that regard your waste disposal method from the office like cans, plastics and paper. They also should observe the architecture of the building they are located to see how sustainable is the construction materials, how best they can utilize daylight instead of electric lighting. Hotels, Production plants, Mines should be considerate of their maximum demand and lower their capacity at all cost because that is the definition of being a good company, saving the environment. Those who best meet and find solutions to these challenges eventually lead the competitive pack. Former Wal-Mart CEO, Lee Scot in 2006 said, “We believe that focusing on these (environmental issues) has made us more competitive and an Innovative company.”
So no matter what type of business one is into, it is smart companies that go ahead with the “Green Wave” that fully experience lower financial and operational risks. Other companies have even gone way beyond compliance and have realized business opportunities from that. As a multi-national cooperate to some entrepreneurs still in their backyard, environmental issues should be considered and see how your product or service impacts the environment and look up for ways on how to lower the environmental risk. Issues around Climate Change, Energy, Water, Waste Management, Food Safety, Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Land Use, Oceans, Fisheries, Deforestation, Chemicals and Toxics should take precedence in today’s business.
In conclusion, there is a native American proverb that says.” We do not inherit the Earth from our forefathers, but we borrow it from our children.”