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Fifth Estate

Sustainable manufacturing key for environmental restoration

The World Environment Day this year came to us with a message of hope – we are the generation that has the knowledge, ability, and resources to make peace with nature.

We are ‘Generation Restoration’, the people who can reverse the damage done to the planet and begin a journey of healing the earth. This year, governments, civil societies, private citizens, and businesses have been urged to get active as we come together for a Decade of Ecosystem Restoration for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Indeed, if the past year is anything to go by, the need to restore the planet has been underscored by the ensuing consequences of the COVID 19 pandemic.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the recent increase in diseases such as Coronavirus can be attributed to environmental degradation caused by human activities such as pollution, deforestation, and overexploitation of natural resources. And just like COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to innovate new ways of operating to survive, we must do the same for the well-being of the planet.

Without a doubt, the call to be ‘Generation Restoration’ for the realization of sustainable development must be heeded by all. At the core of this restoration, is the adoption of sustainable manufacturing. This approach, contrary to one that has long focused on production of goods and services with little regard for its impact on the environment, recognizes the relationship between the manufacturing process and the natural environment.

The manufacturing industry has long been accused of contributing to environmental pollution, and with a growing number of manufacturers in the country, it is critical that we start to implement sustainable manufacturing strategies and technologies, such as sustainable design, sustainable consumption, resource and energy efficiency and waste management to help to curb any forms of pollution.

Bio Food Products, a company that is well known for products such as milk and yoghurt has embedded sustainability in their entire operations. By doing so, they are enjoying financial and environmental benefits in embracing measures such as reduced operational costs, increased long- term viability of business, improved brand reputation and enhanced employee, community, and product safety. Most importantly, embracing sustainability has helped to reduce the natural resources they extract from the environment as raw materials and the amount of waste they return, which in turn promotes environmental conservation and ecosystem restoration.

At Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), we continue to champion sustainable manufacturing. A recent effort geared towards assisting to achieve our objective was the launch of a Strategic Business Plan for the establishment of a Plastic Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) last year. This week, we are set to launch the Kenya Extended Producer Responsibility Organization (KEPRO) to kick start an entire industry that will accelerate conversion of waste in Kenya by providing incentives and subsidies to improve the growth, efficiency, and viability of the waste collection, sorting, and recycling sector. We believe this will fasten the transition from a linear to a circular economy and that KEPRO will provide manufacturers a platform to spearhead the process.

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In the long run, adoption of sustainable manufacturing will go a long way in ecosystem restoration through collaboration with key stakeholders to reduce waste, drive greater resource productivity, deliver a more competitive economy, and reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption. We are confident that through KEPRO, a circular economy will redefine the way organizations consider growth.

As we forge ahead in the journey towards a harmonious coexistence with nature, we must as manufacturers fully embed environmental sustainability at the heart of our operations. Most importantly, we must collaborate with other players in the market such as government regulators, waste collectors, recyclers and the public for a successful transition.

The writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the Global Compact Network Kenya Board Chair. She can be reached at ceo@kam.co.ke.

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