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Local companies aiding environmental destruction

As the fight to safeguard the environment for future generations intensifies, it is time that the government, environmental groups, academics, media, industry and the general public started a debate on ways to push environmental protection to the top of all economic agendas.

Environment with Chipo Musara

The “Economy vs. Ecology” debate is one that has dominated many meetings between environmental groups and industry players in Zimbabwe, in an effort to come up with ways to preserve the environment without sacrificing the economic benefits industry brings.

However, it would seem that despite all the talk, environmental protection is just not an issue that is considered to be of much importance in the country.

In fact, most companies operating in the country seem content operating in a manner that “kills” the environment, as long as they make profits. Economic success seems for them too important to spend any extra money on environment protection.

In contrast, industrialists worldwide are now generally interested in looking holistically at environmental consequences of their operations.

The concept of “green” products is one that is gaining acceptance among both producers and consumers worldwide.

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd — a South Korean multinational electronics company — for instance, is one firm that is dedicated to the greening of its management, products, processes, workplace and communities.

Their green programme entails a take-back and recycle initiative in place where old products can be taken back to the stores and are recycled, thereby minimising the volume of unrecoverable material. It is one of the companies listed in Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics, which rates electronic companies on policies and practices to reduce their impact on the climate.

What most companies that have gone green realised is that it was not only about protecting the environment as going green has also proven to be a very good marketing strategy.

A company can also gain customers that appreciate and respect companies that protect the environment. By being environmentally friendly, a company can gain respect and is most likely able to meet international industry demands. Green companies realise that a company’s image is equally as important as the quality of its products.

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has for some time now been talking about implementing the “cradle to the grave” concept in Zimbabwe.

The concept calls for industry players to monitor and assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of their products’ life cycle — from raw material gathering and manufacturing right through to distribution and use.

But the cycle does not end there — as most local companies seem to think — it also involves improving the process of a product’s disposal so that its impact on the environment is minimised.

The majority of locally operating companies, major companies included, are concerned about their products, but only up to the point when they are purchased.

After the products are in the consumer’s hands and money is bagged, it seizes to be their responsibility how they are disposed.

Zimbabwe has been battling with waste management for a long time now, and the problem does not seem to be going anywhere. Making up much of the litter that now envelops the country is material used in packaging products.

Fast food packaging, empty beverage bottles, used airtime recharge cards, plastic bags and used diapers constitute the bulk of the waste that litters the landscape and fills up landfills. The problem has been exacerbated by the inactive nature of city councils, tasked with cleaning up and collecting garbage, a job they have clearly been failing to do.

In the capital, waiting for Harare City Council to come and clean up while people continued to litter, has created a monumental problem that has become so complex that it will require very stern and costly remedial actions to go away.

Companies should play a major role in creating the remedy for the environmental challenges the country is battling with, especially that of waste management. This would only be the right thing to do since the companies are contributing significantly to the problem!

Regrettably, although EMA continues to engage companies to adapt the “cradle to the grave” concept, it is not a concept that has actually been made into law; hence companies have no legal obligation to comply.

This is proof of an equally laid-back attitude from the legislators towards environmental protection.

But in spite of the weakness of the country’s laws with regards to environmental wellbeing, locally operating companies should do the responsible thing and ensure that material used to make their products can be recycled, or is reusable.

Companies should adopt the “cradle to the grave” concept.
For feedback, email
cmasara@standard.co.zw

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