Business Case for Executive Leadership Focus in Driving Sustainability
The theme for World Environment Day 2020 Biodiversity, caught my interest because it comes as covid-19 induced movement restrictions lift globally. And amongst other things the pandemic has exposed how vulnerable we are as a species. Moreso how underprepared we are to deal with a pandemic. I’m certain various government and biotech communities are working round the clock to find solutions to ensure better readiness in future. We pray they are successful.
Expectedly, there are already calls and commitments for a “green recovery”. The subtext being that we recognise the need for us to be gentler in our treatment of our host planet. There is a valid case for this remorse, we have been causing harm to the planet in many ways for many centuries: Emissions (fossil fuels, air pollution, particularly sulphur and nitrogen emissions) account for between 76% and 87% of CO2 emissions annually, causing harm and sometimes extinction of species.
Other culprits to contributing to the depletion of our ecosystem include waste production which presents a real threat to marine life. Experts predict that at the current rate of plastic waste production, we could be facing 250 million metric tons in the ocean in less than 10 years. The dense global supply chain caused by globalisation has also meant that the effects of poor resource utilisation extends beyond the locations where goods and services are produced and consumed.
Despite the increased global awareness of climate change, knowing what is best and acting upon it appear to have been maintaining a social distance. It is estimated that in 2019, emissions generated from industrial activities, the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities amounted to about 43.1 billion metric tons. In 2018, globally we lost 12 million hectares of tree and ground crop cover, with 3.6 million hectares of that being primarily rain forest, which to put in clearer terms will be about the landmass size of Belgium. At home,
Nigeria has lost over 818,286 hectares of tree cover between 2001 – 2018. If further proof is required, verifiable return to nature moments were captured globally when we stopped moving around so much these past few months.
It is clear that a new approach is required, one that addresses production and consumption to ensure that minimal damage is done to the environment. Companies have a large role to play as the waste generated in present supply chain models contribute greatly to the degradation of the environment. It is imperative that business leaders are at the forefront of this transition. We are custodians of strategy and decision makers for our respective organisations and therefore control of most factors of production. Across the more progressive economies in the world we are starting to see initiatives to leverage cleaner sources of energy play out en masse – we in Nigeria too have an integral role to play in the green recovery.
Some business leaders and decision makers may believe environmental concerns exist somewhere outside the bottom-line, a concept to be glanced at after all factors of production have been considered. My belief is that , we must consciously steer our business strategies such that they are created with deep considerations of the social and environmental impact of our actions affixed in them. It wouldn’t be much of a leap of faith either – it is a fact that sustainable business profitability can be achieved in whilst running a strategic eco-friendly and environmental conscious plan.
In Nigeria, as with much of Africa, our current inability to domestically meet energy demands provides us with an opportunity to leapfrog the mistakes that have been made by most developed countries. We successfully did the same in the banking and the telecommunication sectors.
In our company, we have been exploring new energy supply and distribution models that address local needs, leverage technology, and leaves a soft footprint on our environment. The energy gap exists mainly in rural areas, where about 60% of our population reside with energy needs per capita lower than in the urban areas, but utilize mainly non-renewables such as wood and biomass to generate heat or generators for electricity – adding to the depletion of ground crop cover earlier referenced.
Solving the energy distribution problem will require a new type of energy station, one approach might be a model that leverages a mix of solar and waste to energy bio-fuel solutions to provide affordable power the basic individual needs of lighting, powering mobile devices and maybe cooling. Such an installation can be enhanced with easy access to LPG for domestic use and to power nearby light-industry. To be fully effective, the 60% rural and peri-urban addressable population should be targeted for deployment.
The socio-economic implication of this model will be immense, as conversion of waste to energy will increase sanitation, and commoditize waste to the benefit of local communities. The impact of constant power supply to artisans will increase productivity and the general quality of life will be positively impacted. Business case aside, a model such as this preserves natural habitats, reduces the need to chop down trees for firewood, and will ensure that ecosystems needed for flora and fauna to thrive are maintained.
As the world marks the World Environment Day themed “Celebrate Biodiversity”, we at Ardova Plc take a moment to recognise that we are merely custodians of the many life forms that exists on the planet. We recognise that the impact of our personal and business activities on the environment. We acknowledge that it can adversely affect plants and other species that cohabit with us. We have not done enough to be more inclusive in our energy supply choices.
Our adverse environmental impact on the planet will remain a clear and present risk for the foreseeable future. We therefore commit to actively explore models that will reduce dependence on fossil fuels and environmental impact. We are and will continue to do all that we can in our operations and investment decisions to preserve the environment. Biological diversity on our planet, is not just a good to have, it ultimately ensures our own preservation and that is the best business case if we ever needed one.
…. Olumide Adeosun is the CEO, Ardova Plc
In commemoration of the 2020 World Environment Day