Our Social Fabric as a Driver in Environmental Action

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The intricate web of relationships, values, and norms that bind communities together forms the community’s ‘Social Fabric.’ It influences general behavior and the community’s values, which cultivate an interest in the environment and the attitude to push for policy changes.

The environment extends beyond human interactions to include our relationship with the natural world. Given that we all need the environment to conduct our businesses in one way or another, the social fabric around us becomes very important.

Building a solid social fabric is crucial for fostering a culture of environmental stewardship and collective action towards sustainability. These activities can be included in education and Community Engagement Activities.

One such activity that Sustainable Inclusive Business, in partnership with the National Environment Management Authority of Kenya (NEMA), recently organized was the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) workshop. Supported by USAID and Prosper Africa, this workshop brought together over 150 producers and waste handlers/pickers in Nairobi to deliberate on the private sector’s contribution to implementing EPR in the country.

The workshop included a mix of plastic waste value chain stakeholders, from the informal waste sector (handlers/pickers) to product and packaging manufacturers, Producer Responsibility Organizations, and recyclers. Since the waste pickers are the unsung heroes in the waste management process, ensuring their inclusion and involvement in the workshop was crucial. These individuals and groups are pivotal in moving us closer to closing the circular economy loop.

At the same time, the waste pickers face life-threatening challenges out in the field, only to deliver the collected waste and run into further challenges such as underpayment and their collected waste being rejected due to its ‘unrecyclable nature.’ This workshop gave the waste pickers a platform to present their daily challenges to key stakeholders.

Being one of the activities sparked by a responsible social fabric, this workshop session brought together key stakeholders in the plastics value chain, including manufacturing companies from various industries (dairy, food & beverage, detergents, and packaging manufacturers, among others) that utilize plastic packaging for their products, Producer Responsibility Organizations, The Kenya Plastics Pact, County Government Representatives, and waste pickers associations.

This workshop, therefore, presented a platform for the unsung heroes in the waste management system, the waste pickers, to push for action. Producers and manufacturers now have the opportunity to revise their compensation rates for the waste pickers to avoid the legal and steep financial consequences of having their products end up in the environment. Another option is to redesign their packaging and make it easily recyclable, raising its demand from waste pickers and recyclers and not ending up in the environment.

The social fabric for environmentalists is about more than just protecting nature; it’s about weaving together a tapestry of relationships, values, and actions that promote sustainability and well-being for all. We can create a resilient and vibrant social fabric that supports lasting change by building strong community associations, fostering a culture of environmental stewardship, pushing for supportive policies, and empowering individuals to take action. Together, we can weave a brighter, symbiotic future for the planet, the people, and our proceeds.

By Absalom Mulama, Communications Assistant, Sustainable Inclusive Business-Kenya