Nigeria: Embracing Sustainability and Waste Recycling Culture

18 October 2019

Eromosele Abiodun writes on the benefits of embracing sustainability

In the business world today, sustainability has continued to gain prominence as the importance of sustainable business practices becomes better understood. More companies are adopting sustainable practices to improve their long-term efficiencies and also reduce the negative impact to the business and environment.

Here in Nigeria, the practice of business sustainability has gradually become an integral part of corporate conversations especially among global business corporations operating in the country who set aside a week to observe and promote sustainability annually, aligning it with relevant global commemorative days. More importantly, corporate citizens who feel the growing concern to balance economic and environmental needs find the environmental side of business sustainability even more endearing.

The British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) recently joined the ranks of business organisations in the country further extending contributions to sustainable development when it observed its first-ever sustainability week from September 23 to 27, 2019. The highpoint of the weeklong programme was the launch of the Corporate Recycling Programme, which involved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), on September 24, between the company and a foremost waste recycling company, Recycle Points, for responsible disposal and recycling of BATN's physical waste.

As observed by the Area Director, BAT in West Africa, Yarub Al-Bahrani, in an opening address at the launch, the company, through the activities for the sustainability week, chose to align with the global community in commemorating the International World Clean Up Day, a day set aside by over 157 countries and 18 million volunteers worldwide to clean up the planet from waste of different forms.

While highlighting the company's efforts on sustainability, Al-Bahrani noted that sustainability is vital to the company's business and in securing its future.

"On the back of our inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices for the 18th consecutive year and being the only tobacco company to be included in the prestigious World Index, sustainability for us at BAT is not just a buzzword. Sustainability is a crucial part of our business and also a key enabler for securing the future of our company and creating shared value for our consumers, our shareholders and our stakeholders," he said.

Speaking further, he noted that as a multinational business, BATN has long been aware of its responsibilities towards harm reduction, responsible corporate behaviour and the need to address environmental issues on a global scale and within its host communities and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"In our long history of focusing on sustainability and corporate responsibility, we have made significant global progress and continue to drive adherence in our local end market. This week is focused on the key milestones we have achieved towards reduction of our carbon footprint and environmental impact on our surrounding environment. Over the years, we have partnered with an electronic waste management company, E-terra for responsible disposal of all our electronic waste, and I am pleased to inform you that we have disposed over 2.4 tonnes of electronic waste with E-terra so far," he stated.

In his remark, the CEO, Recycle Points, Mazi Alison Ukonu, commended BATN for its impressive sustainability drive. He expressed delight in observing that a lot of corporate companies have started seeing the need for their employees to get into sustainability and hoped that BAT will be able to influence a whole lot more companies to join the cause.

The sustainability week, which was themed: 'Inspiring Tomorrow Together,' also featured exhibitions in BAT offices in Lagos and Ibadan designed to appreciate the economic value that can be derived from recycling. The exhibitions were meant to demonstrate how trash could be turned to treasure or cash.

Other activities for the weeklong programme were 'The No Print Day and The Biggest Saver' internal recycling initiative.

For the No Print Day, the focus was to drive resource use efficiency on paper, as the printers in the West Africa Head office in Lagos and the factory in Ibadan were shut down and there was no printing across both locations for a day. The total amount of paper saved for the day was shared via communications afterwards to motivate and further spur the behavioural change on paper use reduction.

The Biggest Saver' internal recycling initiative enabled employees on various floors at the Head Office in Lagosto earn points for efficient and effective recycling.

The BATN sustainability week activities actually began with the formal presentation of 'Business Sustainability Champion Award 2019 for the E-waste Category' to BAT Nigeria by E-terra Technologies at the BAT Nigeria head office in Lagos, on Monday September 23, 2019. E-terra Technologies,is a firm that specialises in eco-friendly management of electronic waste and is endorsed by the Lagos State Government.

At the occasion, the Managing Director, E-terra Technologies, Dr Ifeanyi Ochonogor, lauded BATN's sustainability efforts and particularly its electronic waste management, noting that business sustainability has not always been respected as much as it should.

"Business sustainability means a lot to all of us who appreciate the need to put a balance to our business processes," he remarked.

The Human Resources Director, BAT in West Africa, Temitope Akinsanya, in her address during the award, said that BATN's comprehensive Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) management system had been in place for many years and was based on international standards.

She noted that as a "responsible company that accords a high priority to EHS, BATN has worked in partnership with relevant organisations such as the Federal Fire Service, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), among others, to impart additional knowledge on environment, health and safety measures to its employees."

Speaking further, she observed that the company's production had been growing year-on-year with progressive reduction in waste generated, adding that recycling effort had increased with a gradual reduction in waste to landfill.

Speaking in the same vein, the Corporate Affairs Head, BAT in West Africa, Abimbola Okoya, said that it was an honour for BATN to be considered for such a prestigious award. While recalling that BAT also won an award from E Terra Award in 2018 for the 'Best International Standards in the Handling and Disposal of Electronic Waste' as well as Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN)'s 'Best Kept Industrial Premises' awards 2016, among others, she enthused that sustainability is ingrained in the company's DNA.

It is hoped that BATN's sustainability drive will further galvanise the interest of more business organisations in the country to achieving a self-sustaining recycling economy with a bid to encouraging innovation and wealth creation.

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