Corporate sustainability in Africa was the agenda for Canon’s Africa Frontiers of Innovation in June, with experts sharing insights on how adopting a sustainability strategy is good for business and the environment
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Canon’s Africa Frontiers of Innovation (Canon-CNA.com) brings together some of Africa’s brightest minds, to unpack innovative solutions at a monthly seminar hosted by award-winning Kenyan broadcaster Victoria Rubidari. The panel included Arnolda Shiundu, Head of Sustainability and Community Engagement at Kenya Breweries Limited (DIAGEO); Charles Ojei, CEO of HYBR, a pan-African social impact advisory firm and Andy Tomkins, Sustainability Engagement Manager for Canon EMEA.
According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risk Report (https://bit.ly/3ka9VUs), the world’s top five risks facing the world are environmental. These include extreme weather events, natural disasters, climate change, human damage to the environment and major biodiversity loss, leading to the collapse of ecosystems. If left unchecked, economic and political turmoil is predicted.
Ironically, Africa has contributed the least (https://bit.ly/3wBRHO8) to climate change but is the most vulnerable to its effects. The private and public sectors have a significant role to play: “Today, business and society are integral and go hand in hand. Doing good is good for business and it needs to be at the forefront,” said Ojei.
Putting sustainability at the heart of business
Businesses that embed sustainability into their overall strategy and core operations are more successful. A report by Deloitte found 59% of businesses experienced revenue growth as a result and benefits included more resilient supply chains, increased efficiencies, better interaction with stakeholders and, ultimately better financial performance.
Canon is a signatory of the UN Global Compact (https://bit.ly/3efzTlz) and a member of the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) (https://bit.ly/2TXo7Wj). “Our philosophy at Canon is kyosei – a Japanese word meaning ‘living and working together for the common good’. It underpins our vision for sustainability and everything we do as a business,” said Tomkins. “We passionately believe in the benefits Canon, its people, products and services bring to our customers and wider society. Ensuring we continue to deliver these benefits is critical to our vision.”
Kenya Breweries Limited (DIAGEO) has won multiple environmental awards. Shuindu believes this success stems from factoring sustainability into everything they do: “Embedding sustainability means understanding the core impact you are having and putting policies in place.”
Sustainability can positively affect financial outcomes, on a macro and micro level. Tomkins highlighted research from Oxfam that indicates the economies of rich countries will shrink by half if greenhouse gases are not addressed. “In the current ecological crisis, sustainable business makes economic sense.”
Consumer demand is another consideration; 2020 research by Accenture shows people are willing to spend more on eco-friendly products. “Consumers are knowledgeable and passionate. They want to work with brands that share their values, that are aligned to their needs and wants,” said Tomkins.
Ojei agrees financial impact is a powerful incentive. “We’ve seen energy costs coming down 30%, a direct boost to the bottom line. We’ve seen positive growth in most of the projects.”
Positive investment outcomes have been shown, with sustainability investment funds outperforming traditional funds as financial markets endeavour to weather COVID-19, suggested companies with strong environmental, social and governance scores (ESG) are more resilient and attractive to investors.
Resource Management & the Circular Economy
There is a global trend toward recycling and reusing resources because of the depletion of natural resources and marine pollution. KBL was named as a global leader in sustainable water management by CDP (https://bit.ly/36MFVpX) , one of only 72 companies, out of 8,400 globally, to achieve an ‘A’ for Water Stewardship, putting them in the top 1% of companies globally. Shuindu ascribes this to the use of technology and innovation to reduce water and energy use: “We are very intentional about water use and replenish sources through tree planting and other methods.”
According to the Global E-Waste Statistics Partnership (https://bit.ly/3hCT8HU), E-waste is the fastest-growing domestic waste stream in the world and Africa (https://bit.ly/3xGdxBm) is the continent with the worst record as regards recycling – less than 1% in 2019.
Canon is committed to helping customers reduce consumption through energy-efficient products and the development of a circular economy, remanufacturing and refurbishing devices and also recycling printer cartridges.
“We follow a ‘Produce – Use – Recycle’ approach so products remain in the economy as long as possible. We collect and remanufacture, reusing around 80% of its original weight. It is returned to the market as a refurbished, new machine with a new warranty. We also refurbish and sell second-hand units.
Societal Impact and Human Rights
“You cannot expect to grow if you are not actively addressing issues facing the world,” said Tomkins. “Sustainability means taking care of your customers, workers and even suppliers, as well as the communities where they live.”
For Canon, being a responsible business also means ethical working conditions right through the supply chain. “The RBA externally audits our supply chain to ensure practices align with our values and policies.”
Furthermore, as a global imaging leader, Canon is committed to empowering people to tell visual stories about the need for change. “As well as our sustainability policies, we encourage our product users to focus on gender, human rights the environment and causes that matter to them.”
KBL has a deep strategic commitment to making a sustainable and meaningful contribution to the socio-economic development of the societies in which it operates, from empowering 47,000 sorghum farmers, half of whom are women, to uplifting workers at outlets. “You can’t build a business in isolation, you need to work with an entire ecosystem and share economic benefits with the communities. Your impact should be felt where your consumers live, work, operate,” said Shuindu.
“Our ‘Water for Life’ programme has provided water for 50,000 beneficiaries, some of whom are women who were previously waking up at 4 am to walk 20 km in the dark to collect water.
“For us, sustainability goes beyond doing the right thing, it’s about the environment, the safety of women, access to water. I met a 95-year-old man who had never before opened a tap and seen running water. He helped me see the direct impact.”
Where to Start
“Profit, people and planet is the name of the game today. The earlier businesses and leaders embrace this, the better. It may require innovation and new thinking but there are practical, early steps. Leaders should start taking these steps and as results and failures show, learn and take the successful outcomes to scale. Their business will be differentiated – their consumers, employees and investors will love them,” encouraged Ojei, who has spent two decades helping businesses start a sustainability journey.
His advice is, start small. “Test assumptions and ideas. Use the learning as a catalyst, then engage the broader network. This can help overcome barriers and gain gradual momentum. Agree on criteria for success at the outset. Sustainability is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
Demonstrating how sustainability measures align with different stakeholders’ interests, has worked for KBL. “Tell the stories, not from a corporate perspective but from the person who has benefited. Share how sustainability relates to their story,” advised Shuindu.
Canon has a longstanding commitment to sustainability. “Back in 1990, we were the first company to recycle printer cartridges. Recently we have been recognised by CDP, for climate change and water security. We have also been rated in the top 1% of companies in the EcoVadis Sustainability Performance Overview (https://bit.ly/3ewtKBV),” said Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director, Canon CNA. “We will continue to drive this conversation with a clear focus on a better future for all.”
See the bigger picture with Canon. To join Canon’s next Africa Frontiers of Innovation (https://bit.ly/36zZgKS) session go to Canon Middle East and Africa on LinkedIn (https://bit.ly/3hzUjaV) or Facebook (https://bit.ly/3hCTMFk). To find out more about corporate sustainability at Canon go to Canon Facebook (bit.ly/3sEGDyO) or LinkedIn (bit.ly/2P9VK4N).