We are living in extraordinary times. The human race is abusing and degrading natural resources at an unsustainable rate. We are taking, and not replacing. The menace brought about by plastics is at the heart of this.
Over the decades, we have dumped tons of plastics into the environment. The most devastating thing is that plastics, which include bottles, bags, cups or straws, do not break down in the environment. In fact, estimates for the time they take to decompose naturally range from 20 to 1,000 years. We are confronted with their menace every time it rains. They clog water pipes, drainage and sewerage systems and can cause death if ingested by livestock.
That is why at Safaricom, we embarked on a journey to play our part in changing this narrative.
In 2015, at the onset of the Sustainable Development Goals, we revised our business strategy and aligned it to the SDGs. We prioritised nine SDGs critical for our business, and among these are goal 7 on renewable energy; goal 12 on responsible production and consumption and goal 17 on partnerships.
Goal 12 prompted in-depth reflection on what we produce and consume in our business operations which included our use of plastics.
In line with this, Safaricom has taken the bold move to do away with plastic bags used in our shops countrywide and replace with environmentally friendly packaging materials, which can be reused for multiple uses and purchases.
We have been using compostable plastics, which contain a concentration of metal salts that catalyzes degradation upon disposal qualifying them as oxo-biodegradable plastics.
While these may have the potential to be composted and decrease the landfill burden, they contain toxic additives that may leach into our soil and oceans and eventually end up on our plates.
While Kenya’s ban on plastics continues to elicit debate, Safaricom recognizes that we need to make sure a sustainable future because our actions today have a bearing on future generations.
Also by phasing out plastic carry bags, we reaffirm our commitment in taking our moral and corporate responsibility to manage our environmental impact recognizing that environmental considerations are not separate from our core business, but an integral part of our overall business strategy.
We have invested in e-waste management programs which we run in partnership with NEMA countrywide and in our retail centres.
While we have been reducing, re-using and recycling within our business, we know that there is a lot more that we can do.
Effective environmental management offers a host of benefits, improved customer relations, compliance with environmental legislation, increased staff pride, reduced waste generation and efficient energy consumption.
Last year, we carried out a cost-benefit analysis and found that the change over from plastic bags to the eco-friendly bags will attract an average saving of KSh2.5 million per quarter.
As businesses, it’s very easy to work individually, each owning their little space and hoping that whatever they do will bring the desired change.
But to be honest, individual impact will be at a much lower scale but collectively, we can deliver miracles. This is why is it critical for all businesses operating in Kenya to examine how they can continue to grow sustainably.
Our actions together can hopefully contribute to the reduction in global warming that threatens our global future.
Safaricom’s success is solely the result of its connection with Kenyans. And that connection is critical to our economy and in the country we all call home.
Safaricom believes that we exist to transform lives. That is why we owe it to our customers and to Kenyans to do what is right for them, the country and our environment. We truly believe that changing to environment-friendly bags is critical to our mutual futures.