The first time I got to appreciate the seriousness of climate change was through my brother-in-law, who is a guru in this area. I had debarked a tree to light a fire for a braai. This act really riled him and he gave me a strong lecture on the demerits of debarking trees.
The next time I raised his ire, was when we killed a harmless baby green snake. I was not alone on this one. The family cheered us on, while I and the gardener bashed that snake with all the “venom” that it deserved. Our reason was that, there was a baby in the house and the snake had to go. My poor brother-in- law completely traumatised, intervened in time to stop us looking for and bashing the mother as well.
For his part, he bought me a book on snakes so I could familiarise myself with the harmful and the harmless ones. Since then he has since awakened my interest in bird watching and am now an avid protector of our environment.
These seemingly harmless, small incidents might seem insignificant when faced with the enormity of preserving our environment and ultimately lowering the effects of climate change. But snakes and trees both play significant roles in maintaining the ecosystem.
Perhaps no one ever sets out to destroy the environment, but it is these small acts of unintended irresponsibility that cumulatively impact the atmosphere and hasten climate change.
Plastic paper thrown everywhere, burning of tyres and plastics, throwing rubbish in drains, and growing crops on wetlands are just some of the few activities that assist in destroying our climate and environment.
Professor Crichton in a report entitled “Climate Change and its Effects on Small Business in the UK” points out that: “The threat of climate change has taken on a new urgency during the last 12 months, following the discovery last December of a 30 percent reduction in the thermohaline ocean circulation (which drives the Gulf Stream) and increased melting in the Greenland ice cap.”
Professor Crichton also details how the rising insurance costs are a result of SMES claiming for flooding, something that was not so common.
The United Nations Convention on Framework on Climate Change in a report entitled “Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Adaptation in Developing Countries” estimates that by 2030, developing countries will require US$28–67 billion in funds to enable adaptation to climate change and developing countries are the most vulnerable in adapting to change as they have fewer resources to acclimatise “socially, technologically and financially”.
On the business side there is a worrisome ‘business as usual” attitude that has been adopted by our SMES. In a snap survey by SODECO, 99 percent of SMEs had heard about climate change.
However, “they had no idea” on how it impacted on their day-to-day lives. The business fraternity should therefore take an active role in mitigating against the negative impact of climate change. So, what should the SMEs do to conserve the environment and mitigate against the effects of climate change?
Raising climate change
SME associations in the country should partner with relevant authorities to raise awareness on climate change, especially those in the agricultural sector with a specific focus on tobacco farmers. Currently, Zimbabwe is losing a lot of hectares in terms of deforestation due to various activities. According to an article entitled “Unregulated deforestation may be decimating Zimbabwe’s timber industry” by Evidence Chenjerai and Linda Mujuru, deforestation gutted 37 percent of Zimbabwe’s forested land between 1990 and 2015, leaving 87 000 hectares (about 215 000 acres), according to a 2015 report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The same report notes that commercial forests, which are planted for profit, shrunk from 120 000 hectares (about 297 000 acres) to about 69 000 hectares (about 171 000 acres) in 2019, according to the Timber Producers Federation, an independent association of timber producers in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is losing 330 000 hectares (more than 815 000 acres) of forest — over 60 million trees a year. The current planting rate is about 8 million a year. SMEs in this sector thus need to take responsibility and ensure that they are made aware of the damage they are causing.
In the same breadth companies can teach their employees about climate change and award employees for being climate savvy.
According to the website, Small Business Trends, waste is a critical issue in upholding climate change. Biodegradable paper packaging is a good way to start and personnel can package water in bottles without using bottled water.
According to Welford and Gouldson in their book “Environmental Management and Business Strategy”; “Waste is not only an environmental problem but also a very significant Business problem”.
According to the two authors “the formulation of a company level waste management strategy is central to efficient business management” SMEs can also reduce their carbon footprint through reducing their printing and using other ways of communication that does not need paper. According to the Paperless Project an average office worker prints 10 000 sheets of paper annually which takes a huge toll on the environment.
Sometimes that drive to a meeting at the corner less than a kilometre away can be cancelled, in exchange for a walk with work colleagues and a time of bonding.
Videography is also an important way of cutting out on travel, which increases carbon footprint in terms of carbon emissions. How many times do electrical appliances remain on, way after everyone has vacated the office? Using energy saving gadgets is also important and solar gadgets are important in this category.
Finally, LED light bulbs consume at least 75 percent less energy save-electricity-and-fuel/lighting-choices-save-you-money/led-lighting than traditional incandescent.
Partnering with carbon friendly companies
Jeff Bezos has just donated US$10 billion towards mitigating climate change issues. By supporting such company’s businesses, SMEs can be assured that some of the funds will be used to conserve the environment.
Richard Welford and Andrew Gouldson, encourages companies to use the Green Pricing methodology. Sometimes environmentally improved products can cost more but sometimes consumers are happy to pay a little bit more if the product is seen as preserving the environment.
There is increasing scope and support for companies to use biodegradable packaging. Research conducted revealed that around 75 percent of consumers are willing to purchase a product purchased using biodegradable material.
In 1991 the German government introduced a packaging legislation which among other things requires that producers and retailers must accept for recycling and disposal all returned transport and packaging material.
In Zimbabwe, the Plastic and Packaging and Plastic Bottles Regulation2010(SI No. 98. 2010) “prohibits the manufacture for use within the Zimbabwe, commercial distribution or importation of plastic packaging with a wall thickness of less than 30 micrometres.”
Which large conglomerates can teach SMES on climate change?
A number of blue chip companies have successfully woven green innovations into their company strategies. According to Forbes Magazine, McDonald uses energy efficient cooking appliances and has managed to cut wastage by 25 percent. The company has also introduced green parking for hybrid vehicles.
Dell has pioneered the safe disposal of its products, while Google has constructed the world’s most energy efficient data centres and support green efficiencies.
The Bank of America was able to cut its paper requirements by 32 percent, while Tesla Motors have produced ecofriendly cars that are fuel efficient but do not compromise on speed.
L’Oréal companies in the US and Europe, are powered by renewable electricity. But according to Forbes magazine, the “greenest company” is CHR Hansen Holding, a Danish Bioscience firm that derives over 80 percent of its revenue developing natural solutions for preserving foods like yoghurt and milk. It produces chemicals that protects crops using natural bacteria instead of pesticides.
In conclusion, SMES should now start incorporating Climate change strategies into their yearly budgets and start resourcing adaptive techniques.
I sign off with Mother Theresa’s quote “I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use.”
Joseline Sithole is an SME Consultant and founder of Southern Africa Development Consultants (SODECO). For comments write to her on [email protected] or whatsapp +263773634062.