EU and ITC commend MSMEs who are driving sustainable practices

The European Union (EU) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) have commended Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) who are already driving the implementation of the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CS3D). 

These are mainly MSMEs under the International Trade Centre (ITC) Alliances for Action “Eswatini: Promoting growth through competitive alliances” programme, funded by the EU.

Just recently, the EU and ITC assembled MSMEs under this programme to discuss the current evolving sustainability landscape and the upcoming EU CS3D.

The meeting aimed to exchange ideas and experiences to identify key learnings and areas of improvement as a collective for the participating MSMEs, EU, and ITC.

Some of the MSMEs who participated in the discussion were Ngwenya Glass, Black Mamba Foods, Far East Textiles/Vukani BoMake, Eswatini Coffee, and Ufalme PTY Ltd. 

The call to address the challenge of integrating sustainability into corporate governance came from the European citizens and businesses themselves, after public consultations that took place between October 2020 and February 2021.

After this directive is adopted, EU Member States will have two years to transpose this directive into national law and this will also affect non-EU companies that are exporting to companies in the EU.  

EU Programme Officer, Luis Miguel Pascoal, said the due diligence directive means that companies must take appropriate measures to prevent, end, or mitigate impacts on the rights and prohibitions included in the international human rights agreements.

“This could be for example, ensuring workers’ access to adequate food, clothing, and water and sanitation,” he explained.

“Companies are also required to take measures to prevent, end, or mitigate negative environmental impacts that run contrary to several multilateral environmental conventions. The new proposal also requires certain large companies to adopt a plan to ensure that their business strategy is compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5ºC, in line with the Paris Agreement,” he added.  

Sharing their experience on sustainability, Far East Textiles Managing Director and Business Women Eswatini (BWE) Chairperson, Tokky Hou, said they have found a solution for the huge volumes of waste produced by textile firms that end up in places it shouldn’t be through the Vukani BoMake Project (VBP).

Vukani Bomake is a project driven by BWE that aims to capacitate women, youth, and people with disabilities with the business and vocational skills they need to start and manage textile cottage factories.

“We are now working with women from different communities and we are teaching them to use textile waste to create different products,” she said. 

Hou opined that the implementation of the CS3D needs a lot of collaboration amongst all stakeholders, especially because it is coming at a big cost for local companies.

“We need to sit, discuss and look at this. It is coming at a big cost for a country like Eswatini, but this is a great opportunity for us to tap into the EU market. Therefore, we need to prepare ourselves. The question is how do we align and support each other to work on this since it could be a big cost for small companies,” she said.

Sharing their 36 years’ journey on sustainability, Ngwenya Glass Managing Director, Chas Prettejohn, said that, initially, they only recycled glass.

But as years went by, they also cut down their energy and greenhouse emissions by using cooking oil from restaurants and fast food outlets to provide energy for their furnaces other than using fossil fuels.

Prettejohn said they have also installed six 10,000 litres water tanks which they use to harvest rainwater that they use for production and toilets.

Ngwenya Glass have also installed 687 solar panels on their roof which gives them about 40% of the power they require.

They use old newspapers for all their packaging, have planted a garden and trees that they use to mitigate the gases that they are emitting, and they have started a movement called ‘Black Bag Friday’ in which they go out every Friday to collect waste within their community and on the side of the road.

Black Mamba Foods is also on a drive to make sure that it becomes a green business by first, ensuring that all its staff understand sustainability and practice it both at work and home.

To achieve this, Black Mamba Foods’ Sustainability Officer, Ruvimbo Mvura, said they have started training their staff to help them to understand sustainability and why it matters so much.

“The main thrust behind sustainability is making sure that the younger generation can benefit from the environment as we are benefiting right now. We only have one planet to live in, so we have to do the best we can to protect it and make sure that no one is left behind,” she said. 

Eswatini Coffee’s Managing Director Patrick Du Pont said their business model is based on sustainability. He said they aimed to grow five hectares, but they now have 112 farmers who are not only growing coffee but also vegetables and raising livestock.

“From the expos that we have attended through the support of the EU and the ITC, we learned that we need to build volumes by opening this opportunity to interested farmers because the giants in the space of coffee production have been successful through the use of associations and cooperatives,” he said.

“We are quite sensitive in our program. For instance, we are moving towards growing our coffee under trees canopy to sustain our environment. We also do not use heavy machinery in our fields. We only use hand tools to till the soil,” he added.

Ufalme PTY Ltd Managing Director, George Nyandoro, said some of the things they have done as far as sustainability is concerned is to manage how they use water which is becoming a scarce resource for the over 2,000 farmers they work with.

“For instance, we are transitioning from sprinkle irrigation to drip irrigation. A 3,000 meters drip irrigation pipe uses 3 litres of water per day. That water is sufficient for a plant to survive,” he said.

“Initially, we were using a tap with running water to wash our vegetables. But we now use washing basins to clean our vegetables and only change the water when it is no longer clean. We then use the discarded water for other purposes such as cleaning our vehicles and implements. We also train our staff to use the same practices at home. We also train them to plant crops and trees that will help us save the environment and provide food,” he said.

However, Nyandoro said most of the sustainable practices are expensive, especially for small farmers. Therefore, he pleaded for the support of small farmers to enable them to implement sustainable practices. 

Head of Cooperation of the EU delegation to the Kingdom of Eswatini Alessia Bursi commended the MSMEs who are already driving sustainability.

She further encouraged them to listen to all stakeholders and create alliances, so that what they do creates a positive impact on the most important elements of their job which is the people.

“This takes more time, but it is how we believe we can create a sustainable impact on the ground. And this is also what we are trying to do in this programme with the ITC. Therefore, I invite everyone to continue the good work that is being made, but never forget to create strong and sustainable alliances that will last,” she said.

Share With Friends