As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.
In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Here are some examples from Kenya, Hong Kong, and Canada.
Continental Renewable Energy (Corec) is a Kenyan based company that recycles waste plastic into eco-friendly building material and sell the hardware to developers whose problem is high material cost by providing affordable and durable construction products. It prevented 700 tons of waste from landfills, made 26,000 posts and signed orders over 10.000 roofing tiles by customers across Kenya in 2 years of operations.
Stamp Investment is a Kenyan enterprise that distributes briquettes and multitasking fuel efficient stoves, which enables schools and households to have access to safe drinking water with a reduction of 75 % in water borne diseases. The business won the Grand Challenges Africa “pitching your innovation” competition in 2016 and has been national winner of the most innovative business idea during Enablis Chase bank, ILO business launch pad competition in 2011.
NUCAFE – National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises is a sustainable market-driven system of coffee farmer organisations empowered to increase their household incomes through enhanced entrepreneurship and innovation in 19 districts of Uganda. NUCAFE Contributed in influencing the development of a National Coffee Policy and to improve gender relations among coffee farming households and was nominated by AGRA best Africa farmer organisation of 2013 in income diversity category.
Pamsy Hui, Hong Kong Polytechnic University Faculty of Business, Hong Kong
It is often a misconception that interesting work in the field of sustainability can only be done by companies with a lot of resources. In Hong Kong, many small and medium enterprises are doing very interesting things with limited resources. For instance, Diving Adventure Ltd., a company providing training services and products related to scuba diving, has always put the environment in the forefront of its business decisions. They regularly collaborate with NGOs, the government, and other organisations on environment protection initiatives (e.g., underwater cleansing activities, reef check). What is impressive is that for such a small operation, they go far beyond just caring about environmental sustainability. They are also committed to create employment opportunities to minority groups, released prisoners, and reformed drug users, to help integrate them into the society. On the service side, they regularly provide training to underprivileged children and individuals with disabilities, providing a sense of inclusiveness for people who are often overlooked, if not discriminated, by the society.
Another example is Baby-Kingdom.com, a parental online forum for parents to share information and experiences related to bringing up children. In addition to donating to NGOs, they help NGOs advertise on their forum, bringing awareness among their large number of users. They set up the Baby Kingdom Environmental Protection Education Fund in 2008 to support programmes in primary schools to educate school children on concepts such as greenhouse gas reduction and green diet. Consistent with its family-friendly image, Baby-Kingdom.com started family-friendly practices well before they became a trend in large corporations. The well-being of children is central to its human resource practices, and the company is often recognised for being a socially responsible employer.
A third example of a company doing interesting things related to sustainability is 4M Industrial Development Limited, a toy design company specialising in educational toys. In designing their products, 4M consciously favors sustainable materials and supply chains with lower carbon footprints. In addition, 4M partners with NGOs in multiple ways. With the Spastics Association of Hong Kong, they adapt part of their manufacturing process to support the disabled. It also works with different NGOs to promote their causes. Many of 4M’s products have a green message behind them (e.g., Paper Recycling Kit, Trash Robot Kit). For each box of the Clean Water Science Kit, for example, 4M donates a portion of its profits to NGOs to fund water-purifying projects in the third world. Meanwhile, children buying the kit would get a message about the project in the box.
Deborah De Lange, Ryerson University, Canada
Our Horizon is a national not-for-profit organization led by Robert Shirkey that works with governments to require climate change labels on gas pumps. The idea is a low-cost, globally scalable intervention to communicate the hidden costs of fossil fuels to end users and drive change upstream.
ZooShare is a biogas plant led by Daniel Bida that turns animal waste from the Toronto Zoo and food waste from grocery stores into fertilizer and renwable power for the Ontario grid. The process aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10,000 tonnes of C02 each year. The biogas plant is starting construction now and will be operational in the summer of 2017.
Purpose Capital is an impact advisory firm that mobilises all forms of capital – financial, physical, human and social – to accelerate social progress. Alex Kjorven is the Director of Corporate Development and is a graduate student in the EnSciMan programme at Ryerson.