SMEs are a critical part of actualising environmental policies

By Soko Directory Team / Published August 23, 2017 | 1:11 pm





KAM Chief Executive, Ms. Phyllis Wakiaga
KAM Chief Executive, Ms. Phyllis Wakiaga

Micro, Small and Medium enterprises have a huge potential to create long lasting social value especially because their business models, products and proximity caters for the everyday needs of the larger part of our population.

Creating social value means executing initiatives that are geared towards addressing social problems and sustaining progressive change to improve the overall quality of life for all citizens.

Simply put, SMEs are well positioned to intervene in the developmental challenges that we face in our country and we need to develop policies that increase capacity to  do so.

One of our major developmental challenges is waste pollution. This problem has increasingly worsened as cities become even more congested and the resources to manage population growth continue to dwindle. For instance, Nairobi’s most populous parts are also the most affected by waste pollution, and this is where you will find a lot of the SMEs, both informal and formal, thriving.

Given their critical position, it is pertinent that we find ways to centre them in our policy development towards environmental conservation.
A conspicuous example of such a policy is the plastic bag ban starting next month. No doubt this is a positively significant step towards environmental conservation and sustainability.

However, the execution of the ban will favour big industrial businesses and supermarkets, and greatly disadvantage small businesses. As opposed to bringing SMEs on board to ensure effectiveness, it unfortunately locks them out. By negatively impacting their businesses, the ban takes away critical agency in bringing positive change to the society, and cripples ability to catalyse behavioural shift in consumer culture in environmental transformation.

Being the constant touch points with a very wide demographic, their operations intertwine with consumers’ daily routines, making it easy for them to inculcate cultural shifts and normalise them.

A food vendor, for example, will be best placed to drive a campaign against littering by ensuring their shop or kiosk provides bins for customers, teaching them how to use them.

Therefore, if, for instance, we are to implement a waste management initiative such as waste segregation, kiosks will have different bins for organic waste, plastic waste and bottles. For the consumers, seeing this being practiced on a daily basis, in a place they frequent, the idea of waste segregation ceases to be alien.

Ultimately, social value is created towards the end goal of environmental conservation.

This demonstrates how stakeholder participation in policy development goes a long way in ensuring successful execution.

If SMEs are involved in formulation of policies that will affect their businesses they will champion effective implementation.

Read: More clarity is required on Kenya’s plastic ban plan 

In contrast, if there is no consultation to build a shared understanding on the intent of a policy, then not only do SMEs suffer the cost and operational burdens of adjustments, but they also are unable to progress their role of social value creation.

If anything, the resulting loopholes in policy execution magnify existing social challenges such as youth disenfranchisement, poor health and sanitation especially in rural and underprivileged areas and waste pollution among others.

In the case of the plastic bags ban, kiosk owners will resort to safe and biodegradable materials in packing goods to substitute plastic bags. Food handling has become a sensitive given past cholera outbreaks and food vendors must guarantee food safety to retain customers.

Alternatively, they might opt to find illegal ways to pack food in plastic bags to protect source of livelihood inadvertently spurring a rampant black market for the bags.

So the end goal of the policy, which is to have a clean environment, will not manifest because the problem will still persist. In the meanwhile, this disruption will result in unemployment; meaning day-to-day survival will eclipse the larger goals of environmental conservation, which will seem secondary in the face of daily hardships.

A CNBC news report puts SMEs contribution to Kenya’s GDP at about 45 per cent and studies have estimated that the informal sector constitutes about 98 per cent of the businesses in this country.

We need to leverage these numbers to actualise the vision towards a clean environment and sustainable green economy. Their role in economic growth and sustainability cannot be understated.

It is, therefore, crucial they are central to policy development and execution, in order for them to effectively enact their transformative role through social value creation.


The writer is KAM chief executive and UN Global Compact Network Representative for Kenya.




About Soko Directory Team

Soko Directory is a Financial and Markets digital portal that tracks brands, listed firms on the NSE, SMEs and trend setters in the markets eco-system.Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/SokoDirectory and on Twitter: twitter.com/SokoDirectory

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