Thriving and helping reduce organisations plastic footprint

BY NBM WRITER

What was the inspiration behind Aquavita?

Aquavita is an eco-friendly, safe & affordable workplace drinking water solution provider in East Africa.

The Inspiration behind it was the need to reduce the impact of carbon emission in the environment brought about in the process of manufacturing, production and transportation of plastic bottles as well as reduce the risk of contamination of drinking water in the workplace by providing a solution that dispenses water right after purification

It was also formed with an aim to build a world class company that provides employment opportunities especially to young people in East Africa.

Is Aquavita Limited the first with the bottleless water provision idea in East Africa region and if so, how is the market responding? 

Yes, we are the pioneers of bottleless drinking water solutions in the region.

The main challenge is the rate of adoption of new technology. People take time to adapt. In the beginning it was a serious challenge but with patience, persistence and market education we have seen improved rates of adoption over the last two years.  Several bluechip companies and SMEs are now partnering with us and we look forward to addressing all the market segments that we have.

Checking the background of Aquavita Ltd, it is clear that you have targeted and embraced the corporate world as opposed to domestic use. What informs this decision?

It is true that we have started out with the corporate segment of the market. We are aware of the opportunities and the demand for our solutions in the home segment and we will be providing the same in the near future.

When did your awareness against plastic pollution begin and why?

Over the last 20 years we have all witnessed the changes in global weather patterns and these have been strongly attributed to global warming as a result of increased carbon emissions in the environment. In several instances, the economic and social impact has been disastrous. The United Nations set goal No. 13 as Climate Action as part of its Sustainable Development Goals that replaced the Millennium Development goals. In Paris in 2015, parties to the UNFCCC reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and accelerate and intensify actions and investments for a sustainable low carbon future

We feel that we all have a responsibility to respond to the challenging and changing ecosystem that we find ourselves in and believe that our solutions will make a positive contribution towards reducing carbon emissions and consequently global warming.

What has been the impact so far?

We are currently eliminating from the ecosystem 28000 plastic water bottles on a monthly basis while growing the number of bottles removed by 10% month on month. We look to eliminate about 900000 bottles annually and at least 4.5 million bottles in the next 5 years. In terms of carbon emissions this works out to 3.3M Kg of carbon notemitted into the environment on a monthly basis currently and 39.1MKg of carbon not emitted into the environment on a monthly basis in the next 5 years.

Is recycling a solution to plastic pollution?

It is a partial solution, in the sense that plastic manufacture does not start from the very beginning. It reduces carbon emissions by under 30%. More impactful solutions look to completely eliminate carbon emissions whenever possible.

What organisations or partners are you working with to make sure this is a success?

We have had partnerships with regulatory agencies and climate change organisations across EA to provide solutions to mitigate the risks of plastic use in the workplace.

Where do you see Aquavita Ltd in the next five, ten or 15 years from now?

We see ourselves serving all the segments in the market and partnering with key stakeholders in developing policies that encourage sustainable management practices. Additionally we see ourselves as outstanding educators and champions of environmental conservation and safe drinking water practices.

Kenya has been accused of having rigid business regulatory laws, what is your experience in this line? What suggestions would you give as to how the same can be improved?

Kenya currently has a score of 70% on ease of doing business index and ranks 61 out of 190 countries globally. She ranks 4th in Africa. There is definitely room for improvement especially in the area of cost of doing business. We have had instances where it has taken longer to clear goods than it has taken us to order and manufacture. We see efforts to improve customs clearance especially with the development of the dry ports and with the SGR project and we support these efforts.

The country has in recent past experienced a lot of exodus of foreign investors lamenting the high cost of doing business, notably corruption and the tax regime. With your vast experience in other jurisdictions, how do you compare? How can Kenya get itself out of this conundrum?

Government has taken laudable actions in these factors. We have also seen significant efforts to fight corruption by adequately resourcing and structuring government agencies dealing with corruption. This has definitely sent the right message to investors. We believe such initiatives will yield results in the medium and long term.

What do you think is the role of top executives in advancing the SDG agenda and what role can businesses take?

SDGs can only be achieved with direct leadership involvement in making sure businesses operate in a manner mindful of the interests of stakeholders including customers, employees, shareholders and the general ecosystem within which they operate. Top executives not only have the responsibility of initiating projects that align their operations to the SDGs but must also provide leadership throughout their life cycles and ensure they succeed.

Where does sustainability stand in your hierarchy of strategies and is it an immediate issue today in the region’s business environment?

We believe that without incorporating sustainable practices in your day-to-day operations, you end up losing the fundamental structures your business needs to operate in the long term and succeed. If, for example, your operations intoxicate the environment, the net effect is that you intoxicate your Customers, employees and even shareholders. They may end up having to make a choice between purchasing, working for or investing in your business and spending their resources to get treatment and undo the intoxicating effects your business has had on their health. Your business may also have to incur unnecessary costs in penalties from regulatory and law enforcement agencies.

Sustainability must therefore be viewed holistically and strategically. Businesses do not exist in a vacuum; they operate in an ecosystem. From shareholders, to customers who buy from you to employees, a business has to be mindful and responsible in how it operates.

It is about making sure a business continues to serve the interests of its stakeholders in the long term. In the end business is about purpose, about people and about profits. Anything that has a negative impact on the purpose of the business or its people or profits has to be redirected towards a path of positive impact. Sustainable practices ensure that its purpose, people and profits are protected and expanded.

Africa is experiencing a lot of innovation. The macro-economic environment is fast changing; we must evolve with changing environment and adopt to ensure the success of the business in the midst of uncertainty.

The media in Africa has a responsibility of providing a platform and engagement in conversations about sustainable business practices and disseminating information on issues to do with sustainability.

How can organisations measure their progress towards sustainability?

By audit their operations and identifying gaps and opportunities for initiating sustainable projects. They could use the SDGs as a guideline to such projects and by creating objectives and timelines for achieving those objectives.

They should also set up key performance indicators that will be used to establish progress, and management systems with clear action plans that ensure they work towards organisation objectives and audit the progress over a specific period of time

What are the principles behind your success both as and as a human being?

I seek to live a purposeful life that contributes to the wellbeing of humanity. I try to accomplish this by both my work as Founder and CEO creating opportunities for others but also as a human being sharing this beautiful planet with all of humanity. My true joy is to uplift and empower others regardless of their circumstances.

The principles behind my success are being razor focused on my goals; discipline and tenacity to work through complex problems and uncomfortable situations. I am always ready to roll up my sleeves to get it done; not being afraid of hard work, I get a thrill from what others describe as,  “it can’t be done”. 

I continuously seek new challenges and problems to solve and never get too comfortable. I also don’t subscribe to any status quo. I keep an open mind to learn new things and ways to get things done.

You have made strides in education, personal life and in business, a feat only few women in Kenya can boast of, what are your thoughts on the gender question in Kenya? Is the girl child disadvantaged? 

There are still forces that constrain women.  Women remain underrepresented in decision making at all levels and there is still a disparity of income compared to their male colleagues doing the same job with exactly the same challenges and outcomes. There is so much room for improvement if we adopt a different approach that recognizes and rewards competence regardless of gender.

What advice do you have for the girl child in regards to success in education, business, and personal life?

Work hard, the challenges of life are there to be overcome and understand that the world is yours for the taking.    

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