I like to think of nature as a gift, and perhaps one of the greatest gifts given to us. Nature is beautiful, resourceful, and beneficial. The food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature. This is why we must do everything in our power to maintain our ecosystems and the environment at large.
The song about global warming and its harmful impacts has been sung over and over again. There is an urgent need to reverse its harmful effects and further damage. In hindsight, a lot of the catastrophes and natural disasters, including wildfires, drought, floods, and even hurricanes can largely be attributed to climate change. The increase of air and water temperatures leads to rising sea levels, supercharged storms and higher wind speeds, more intense and prolonged droughts and wildfire seasons, heavier precipitation, and flooding.
For this reason, the world comes together on the 5th of June to celebrate World Environment Day. It is the United Nations’ biggest event advocating for environmental action and the need to protect our planet. This year, the theme is biodiversity, which is a concern that is both urgent and existential. Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, the United States, and Australia to locust infestations across East Africa and now, a global disease pandemic, demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life, in which they exist.
This is not to say that we aren’t taking any steps forward. In fact, during World Environment Day in 2017, Kenya took major action by banning single-use plastic bags. You see, plastic is a hazard. Single-use plastics pollute the majority of ecosystems from rainforests to the world’s deepest ocean trench. When consumed by fish and livestock, plastic waste ends up in our food chain.
Aside from this, there is a need for companies to get involved in the push towards saving the planet by embracing sustainable practices within their spaces. Businesses need to care for the environment they live in. It is beneficial to them as well. Companies that enforce environmentally friendly practices save money, build their public image, impress the shareholders, and even increase their productivity.
Here are some of the ways in which companies can help save the environment.
- Optimizing energy
Energy production and consumption is the largest source of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As we well know, these greenhouse gases get trapped in the atmosphere and then lead to global warming. Because of this, there is an urgent need to make the workplaces more energy efficient. This can be done in various ways.
For starters, companies should try as much as possible to create a paperless office. Why? Doing this helps to prevent trees from being cut down and eliminates the energy that is used to convert a tree into a piece of white printing paper. Using less paper also helps you to reduce the amount of waste your office has, lessening the amount of material your office sends to landfills. Again, companies can also invest in renewable energy sources such as solar panels, or even in the production and use of energy-saving equipment.
For example, according to their website, Huawei’s products and solutions cut power consumption by 10%-15%. Six of their mobile phones received the distinguished UL110 for environmental friendliness.
- Let employees work from home
With the rise in technology, it is possible for your employees to operate from their homes completely. If anything, the period of the Coronavirus pandemic has proven that indeed it is possible. Just recently, Forbes released a list of companies leading the work-from-home revolution. This includes Twitter, Facebook, Barclays, and Shopify. How does this help to save the planet? There will be fewer people commuting to work, and therefore less fuel consumption. You see, fossil fuels produce large quantities of carbon dioxide when burned. Carbon emissions trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to climate change. Locally companies like Safaricom already had in place workplace policies to allow employees to be able to work from home. Interview: Rita Okuthe Talks About Her Journey To The Top And Safaricom’s Investment In Women’s Leadership
Recycling is extremely important, especially as we try to make use of non-renewable energy resources. Plastic is one such material that is an environmental hazard. I read a quote somewhere that when you buy a bottle of water, you are spending your money on plastic and not water. Plastic is one of the most persistent pollutants on Earth. It can last for 400 years or more. At every step in its lifecycle, even long after it has been discarded, plastic creates greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to the warming of our world. There is a growing need to recycle our plastics rather than continuing to manufacture more.
Because of this concern, in 2018 Coca-Cola launched a global goal to fundamentally reshape its approach to packaging through its World Without Waste initiative. This initiative aims to collect and recycle the equivalent of 100% of its packaging by 2030. In Uganda, the Company’s bottling partner invested US$1.4 million in a Plastics Recycling Initiative (PRI), collecting about 14 tons of plastic daily, empowering plastic collectors to earn a living, 80% of whom were previously unemployed women. In Kenya, the Company has partnered with industries to launch the PET Recycling Company (PETCO). Reducing Plastics In Kenya: Looking At Coca-Cola’s New Global Plan To Reduce Waste
- E-waste management
Do you remember once, maybe even ten years ago, when you had a phone or a tablet, which you now can’t trace? That’s the reality for most of us. E-waste is dangerous. When warmed up, toxic chemicals are released into the air damaging the atmosphere. The damage to the atmosphere is one of the biggest environmental impacts of e-waste. When electronic waste is thrown away in landfills their toxic materials seep into groundwater, affecting both land and sea animals. That’s why it’s important to manage our E-waste.
Safaricom has an E-waste initiative that collects anything from laptops, battery pads, televisions, microwaves, fridges (which require special collection), chargers, LED lights. Network waste is managed separately through our network companies. What Are You Doing With All Your Electronic Waste? Safaricom Has An E-Waste Initiative You Should Know About
- Reducing carbon emissions
Carbon emissions are a major setback in our fight against climate change and global warming. You see, when carbon emissions and other gases are trapped in the atmosphere, there is a gradual increase in temperature leading to global warming. It takes about a decade for methane emissions to leave the atmosphere and about a century for nitrous oxide. After a pulse of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, 40% will remain in the atmosphere for 100 years and 20% will reside for 1000 years, while the final 10% will take 10,000 years to turn over. This literally means that the heat-trapping emissions we release today from our cars and power plants are setting the climate our children and grandchildren will inherit.
With regard to this, reducing carbon emissions is central to Emirates’ environmental sustainability strategy. The airline has a comprehensive fuel efficiency program, which analyses and implements ways to reduce unnecessary fuel burn and emissions wherever operationally feasible. As a result, it delivered a 1.9% improvement in passenger fuel efficiency for the full year. The airline’s efforts to optimize flight plans and fuel uplift, while ensuring safety and operational integrity, alone saved an estimated 38,000 tonnes of fuel or around 120,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. This was supported by data-driven methodologies and awareness programs for pilots.
- Through initiatives such as afforestation and re-afforestation programs
Deforestation is a major setback when it comes to the sustainability of our environment. Cutting trees both adds carbon dioxide to the air and removes the ability to absorb existing carbon dioxide. According to an article on The Africa Report, by 2019 Kenya had lost nearly half its forests. This calls for urgent action, especially if we are to actualize the constitutional commitment to replenish the country’s forests back to 10% of surface area by 2030, which is equivalent to more than 1.6 million hectares of reforestation.
Back in 2017, Safaricom signed an MOU with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote low carbon emission in the country. In addition, for the last 17 years, The Safaricom Foundation has worked with Ngare Ndare Forest Trust in supporting afforestation and reforestation in a bid to restore forest cover. Again, in partnership with IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative and other organizations, the Safaricom foundation merged resources to protect Mau Forest. The foundation also partnered with The M-PESA Foundation and The Kenyan Defense Forces to rehabilitate the damaged Mau Eburu Eco-system which is 87 square kilometers prime indigenous forest which supports a wide ecosystem. Safaricom Foundation Working With Communities For Sustainable Environmental Conservation
- Enforcing sustainable policies
In order to effectively push forward the agenda to create an environmentally sustainable planet, it is necessary to enforce policies within institutions.
Kenya Wildlife Service, for example, has enforced the plastic ban with effect from 5th June 2020, henceforth advocating the use of less polluting materials such as wooden, metallic, or reusable plastic containers. The single-use plastics in context include disposable plastic water bottles, disposable cutlery, non-woven plastic carrier bags, snack wrappers, disposable sanitary items, and wet wipes. Furthermore, the use of polythene tubes to grow seedlings in nurseries managed by Kenya Forest Services (KFS) has also come to an end.
Emirates is one of the companies that has been at the forefront of saving the planet and our ecosystems. An important cause close to Emirates’ heart is keeping wildlife in the wild. The company has zero tolerance for carrying banned species, hunting trophies, or any products associated with illegal wildlife activities. The airline’s ground-handling team is trained in IATA’s Live Animal Regulations and its internal policies, and more than 2,500 airport services employees were trained last year to recognize and report suspicious cargo.
Is your company doing its part in environmental conservation?