B Lab Africa 2023 Summit

By Janet Ndugire, Senior Account Manager, Gong Communications

Last week, hot on the tail of the inaugural Africa Climate Summit the week before, I had the privilege of attending the B Lab Africa Summit 2023, hosted by B Lab Africa at Strathmore University in Nairobi. The event was themed, ‘Innovating a Sustainable Future for Africa: Business for Climate Impact and Growth’, and brought together an inspiring group of visionary leaders, passionate advocates, and experts dedicated to sustainable business practices. Among the attendees were sustainable business leaders, investors, climate experts, youth entrepreneurs, government officials, and change-makers from various corners of Africa. The diversity of perspectives and backgrounds represented at the summit underlined the gravity of the challenges we face and the importance of collective action to address them.

Giovanna Valverde Stark, the Ambassador of Costa Rica and Permanent Representative of UNEP and UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme), delivered the keynote address. She shared invaluable insights from Costa Rica, a nation that has achieved an impressive milestone of 100% renewable energy among other noteworthy accomplishments in combating climate change, by integrating climate change considerations across all public policies and budgetary decisions.

One of the standout features of the B Lab Africa Summit was its remarkable lineup of speakers, including, Vincent Ogutu, Vice-Chancellor of Strathmore University, Joachim Westerveld, CEO, Bio Foods Products, Joseph Mucheru, Former Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Kenya, Patrick McSharry, Chief Data Analytics Officer, World Data Lab, Sonia Orwa, Country CEO, Kenya, Mr.Green Africa, Amandine de Rosnay, Head of Sustainability and Inclusive Growth Business Mauritius and Head of SUNREF technical assistance. The workshop sessions offered deep dives into critical sustainability topics, and here are just some of the sessions that left a lasting impression:

Sistema.bio  and Eco2Librium (both B Corps) hosted a workshop centered on carbon markets and the value these markets offer to sustainable businesses. The speakers noted that carbon offsetting is a valuable tool for mitigating climate change and demonstrating environmental responsibility, and projects can take various forms, such as reforestation efforts, renewable energy installations, methane capture from landfills, or energy-efficient initiatives. Anton Espira, CEO/Founder of Eco2Librium ended the session by saying, “Carbon markets are the bridge between business success and environmental stewardship. By harnessing the potential of carbon markets, we empower businesses in Africa to not only thrive economically but also become champions of sustainability for our planet.”

One of Eco2Librium’s carbon offset projects in Kakamega, Kenya, is not only eco-friendly but socially impactful. Their Stoves for Life initiative not only reduces emissions but also generates employment for over 500 individuals. By sourcing stoves locally and distributing them to independent contractors, this circular project addresses environmental and social challenges, saving 250 acres of forest each year, and enhancing the lives of 400,000 rural Kenyans, promoting better health and economic well-being.

Another session, Integrating Business Sustainability and Smart Finance spanned topics such as the green economy, sustainable financing, and the transition from extractive to regenerative economic systems. Edward Matsiko, Managing Partner at Pearl Capital Partners commented, “Awareness of sustainable business practices in African local communities must be done differently and messages must be localised.” He talked about Africa’s incredible diversity, from bustling urban centres to remote villages, demanding tailored solutions for its unique sustainability challenges and opportunities. Many African economies depend on natural resources and agriculture, making resilience crucial. Sustainable practices not only benefit the environment but also enhance economic stability, reducing vulnerability to shocks.

Edward added that smart finance tools like impact investing and green bonds channel funds into sustainable sectors, driving economic growth while mitigating environmental impact.

A recurring theme throughout the Summit was the importance of customisation when it comes to sustainability in Africa, and we were reminded that Africa’s unique landscape presents a mosaic of challenges and opportunities. Cultural nuances, developmental disparities, and localised economic conditions all influence how businesses approach social and environmental impact. Consequently, adopting a standardised international B Corp selection process may not fully capture the intricate realities that African businesses face.

“For local communities to address climate change, we must meet them at their point of need. Our youth exhibit remarkable innovation. Kenyans in low-income areas are exemplifying a lot of climate resilience and pioneering innovative solutions.” Sonia Orwa, CEO, Kenya, Mr. Green Africa.

With over 55 B Corps and an impressive 4500+ companies utilising B Lab’s impact measurement tools across the continent, the B Lab Africa Summit 2023 by B Lab Africa represents Africa’s commitment to integrating social and environmental responsibility into business practices. It reaffirms that sustainability is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor but a collaborative journey of customisation, adaptation, and collective action, and that the continent is on the right track.

As a sustainability-driven communications agency in Kenya, our commitment to contributing to the community’s efforts in reshaping how organisations operate and make a meaningful impact remains unwavering. In 2020, in collaboration with Danone and B Lab, we teamed up with our sister company, Gong Communications, and developed a valuable e-learning tool designed to enhance awareness and understanding of B Corp principles among employees in B Corp certified companies. This tool is applicable to both certified B Corps and those in the process of becoming certified.

For international communications support in East Africa and beyond, please do get in touch with our sustainability team at: gongkenya@gongcommunications.com. From its Nairobi base, Gong Kenya has delivered communications assignments for clients in over 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and is part of a network of agencies operating globally.

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