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Environment is corporates’ responsibility

For a long time now, companies in Zimbabwe have generally operated under very relaxed conditions as local conditions allowed them to operate in any way that allowed them to reap maximum profits.

The lack of stringent and well-implemented laws governing company operations has, most regrettably, had a highly negative impact on the environment, which continues to be destroyed in the name of boosting the economy.

Maybe the worst part would be how most of the companies, especially those that are into manufacturing, do not appear to see the need to give back to the society and the environments in which they operate from.

Although some companies have since discovered the importance of embarking in social responsibility programmes, it does not look like many take environmental issues seriously enough.

From the manner in which they operate, I believe most producing companies actually do not have an environment policy in place.

That, however, may soon be a thing of the past.

In line with the Zimbabwe National Recycling Programme (ZNRP), a broad based coalition enjoying the participation of over 50 member institutions representing public and corporate sectors and government, which was started in 2011, corporates will soon be made to be accountable.

Vertmedia, a specialist recycling transnational company, and the Environmental Management Agency, have spearheaded the development of the programme.

ZNPP noted that council was subsidising businesses by paying for the collection and disposal of the latter’s packaging after use by consumers.

“The practice of subsidising corporates in such a manner is in stark contrast to international best practice where corporates and the business community are expected to, and do look after their products from ‘cradle’ to ‘grave.’

“In other words, corporates are required to pay for the cost of disposing of their product packaging after use,” wrote Masimba Wilson Matimba, executive director of the ZNRP, in a letter written to Harare Mayor Muchadeyi  Masunda proposing a partnership with the Harare City Council.

What this implies for companies is that no longer will they be able to feel free to cause damage to the environment and expect to get away with it.

The programme enjoys support and participation from the Environment Management ministry, among other key stakeholders.

Environmental degradation by any company will have consequences.

 

It’s no longer ‘business as usual’

Previously, producer responsibility went as far as when the product is sold off to the consumer as after that, the question of what would happen to the product after use or ways of disposing it would be of no concern to the producer.

This will no longer be the case. Producers will be expected to follow through their product life-cycle right to the time the consumer is done using it.

Take Versapak for instance. It is a locally-based company whose core business is to make kaylites and other packaging material from polystyrene material. Polystyrene material now infests the country and is contributing greatly to the litter scourge, a problem exacerbated by the fact that the material is non-biodegradable.

Under the new system, Versapak would be expected to have in place a concrete plan that makes sure its business operations do not have such an adverse effect on the environment.

As for those companies that choose to not heed the warning and insist on battering the environment, they would be taken care of under the “Polluter Pays” concept, which will make it mandatory for anyone that pollutes the environment to pay towards its restoration.

Companies would do well to start learning about such terms as Extended Producer Responsibility, Product Stewardship, Product Life-cycle Management, Polluter Pays and Optimised Resource Recovery, among others, as these explain the manner in which they will be expected to operate. I hope those companies whose operations have over the years proved detrimental to the environment will start making positive changes.

lFor feedback, email at cmasara@standard.co.zwPreviously, producer responsibility went as far as when the product is sold off to the consumer as after that, the question of what would happen to the product after use or ways of disposing it would be of no concern to the producer.

This will no longer be the case. Producers will be expected to follow through their product life-cycle right to the time the consumer is done using it.

Take Versapak for instance. It is a locally-based company whose core business is to make kaylites and other packaging material from polystyrene material. Polystyrene material now infests the country and is contributing greatly to the litter scourge, a problem exacerbated by the fact that the material is non-biodegradable.

Under the new system, Versapak would be expected to have in place a concrete plan that makes sure its business operations do not have such an adverse effect on the environment.

As for those companies that choose to not heed the warning and insist on battering the environment, they would be taken care of under the “Polluter Pays” concept, which will make it mandatory for anyone that pollutes the environment to pay towards its restoration.

Companies would do well to start learning about such terms as Extended Producer Responsibility, Product Stewardship, Product Life-cycle Management, Polluter Pays and Optimised Resource Recovery, among others, as these explain the manner in which they will be expected to operate. I hope those companies whose operations have over the years proved detrimental to the environment will start making positive changes.

 

For feedback, email at cmasara@standard.co.zw

 

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