Can effective data management be the key to unlocking the Green Economy?
Terms like sustainability and green economy sometimes get bandied about without needed structures and frameworks to ensure that it is tangible, highly implementable and impactful. I recently had the opportunity to attend a “Use of Big Data” Symposium hosted by the ILO with interesting discussions around asking the right questions for the data to work for you. This comes off the back of a session with GIZ on “circular economy and business model design“.
As a value chain specialist, we’re often called in to develop tangible solutions that are dependent on data sets for decision making – how much / type of waste are you generating, what is your current capacity, what are forecast trends, where are the opportunities to improve your processes and what are the points to leverage in your value chain? It’s often quite concerning how little structure and verification protocols are placed behind this data. You wouldn’t do this with your financial indices, why then with your environmental data? Structured the right way, analyzing this information could provide not only insights into environmental footprint but opportunities for cost savings, new market opportunities and revenue streams.
Why is data for the Green Economy being neglected?
Some cite significant costs for implementing data management systems. Why use an ERP system when excel could easily do the job? The key really lies in how you look at data – is it part of your decision-making toolkit or is it just a prescriptive box to tick? We live in unprecedented times. Never before has so much information been available for effective decision-making but at the same time, perspectives around sustainability and green economy don’t always take full advantage of this. As a value chain specialist, we strongly rely on solid intel. We’ve seen first hand the impact and scope of possibility with companies transitioning to a waste economy or identifying guaranteed recycled content supply for their products or even developing new industries. All of this relies on good data – both quantitative and qualitative.
As with most technology, the key takeaway is not to get caught up on how fancy the tech is but to rather look at the human problem you’re trying to solve – not unlike impact considerations for the green economy.
What’s in it for me:
So here’s what I’m thinking – Developing a low cost, accessible data management tool targeting growth and development of the Green Economy in Africa is long overdue but a completely attainable target. Designed with intended useful outcomes in mind, it could be a real game-changer on how we conduct business. Who’s in this with me?
This article was previously published on LinkedIn.
About the author
Dr Jaisheila Rajput is Founder & CEO of TOMA-Now | Tomorrow Matters Now. She strongly advocates the use of green economy business models and actively supports organisations looking to rapidly innovate their business.
Jaisheila holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Cape Town.
We hosted a workshop on Monday, 30 January 2017 to focus on potential biomass beneficiation applications for alien vegetation. The workshop represented the culmination of a year’s work, funded by WWF Nedbank Green Trust, exploring and identifying the most high impact biomass benefication applications that would support the development of local industries, increase positive community impact and meet the needs of local businesses – a somewhat tall order. This article is a highlight of the key outcomes and way forward discussed in establishing viable biomass beneficiation industries.
Participants included key industry players, innovative startups, key technology owners, Norwegian and Swedish Trade Councils and Governmental representatives, making this a biomass beneficiation value chain representative gathering.
Numerous issues were issues were raised including,
- Current state of invasive alien vegetation and benefits of biomass clearing.
- Key role players and stakeholders in the industry spanning across the economic, social, and environmental spheres.
- Data analysis needs and gaps.
- Market potential for thermal energy using biomass – based on needs of local stakeholders.
- Applications biomass can be used for in industry, agriculture and furniture manufacturing.
We provided an overview of our biomass value chain mapping work and were joined by several industry players and technology owners active in this space such as John Thompson Boilers, Viking Energy, Senfore and CSIR. We also had a presentation on an innovative, low cost solar kiln.
Overall there is a growing interest in this industry, as new opportunities and applications are unlocked. What made the TOMA-Now study different was to not only consider the location of the biomass but to identify key local stakeholders – including industry, local businesses and communities. It was identifying their needs first that allowed an effective application match to be identified.
There are still significant areas for development, including the establishment of financial frameworks that support the industry as a whole, not just the upstream alien vegetation clearing activities. The following key considerations were identified for further development in order to ensure a viable biomass beneficiation industry development,
- Comprehensive data mapping (all biomass)
- Strategic harvesting and transport
- A effective community of practice
- Financing frameworks
- Localised testing laboratory and research
- Water estimation tools
- Landowner / product certification schemes
- Cogeneration solutions
This work demonstrates the feasibility of a value chain-based, viable biomass beneficiation approach that gets everyone on board – from biomass clearers to technology developers to startups and corporates. The outcome clearly shows the opportunity to viably, sustainably and exponentially develop the biomass industry through the development of a strong biomass value chain.
CCDI invited Jaisheila Rajput Founder of TOMA-Now (Tomorrow Matters Now | TOMA-Now) to participate at Creative Exchange. The event focused on the link between circular economy and design thinking. The focus of the talk was the role of design thinking in the circular economy – or as Jaisheila highlighted, the Infinite Economy. Jaisheila shared insights about value chains and sustainable innovation.
Jaisheila brings a fresh global perspective to the development of solutions for companies doing business in Africa and has worked in several countries including South Africa, Germany and Hong Kong. She is passionate about developing economic models for sustainability and transforming the way we do business and is a fervent believer in developing practical and comprehensive solutions that have the biggest value with long term benefit and impacts.
Find out what Jaisheila and her team spoke about at the CCDI #CreativeExchange on Thursday, 2 June 2016.
South Africa is deeply affected by Invasive Alien Vegetation (IAV). These species have been identified as contributing to the reduction of our natural water supply. This finding led to the creation of several key associations such as Working for Water, to focus on the problem. The environmental impact of these plants is significant, particularly regarding the quantity of water they absorb: At least 400 million m3/year water is absorbed, equating to the city of Durban’s annual water supply.
WWF South Africa is actively involved in subsidizing the clearing of this alien vegetation. At the beginning of 2016, they partnered with Tomorrow Matters Now | TOMA-Now to focus on optimizing the beneficiation value of the alien biomass removed. The year-long project was initiated in February 2016, and aims to identify relevant processes, applications and beneficiations in the treatment of IAV. It focuses on the Riviersonderend and George areas, where WWF is currently subsidizing alien clearing. The objective of this project is to assess the benefits and limitations of the current use and biomass beneficiation options and make recommendations on how the uses can be combined and cross-subsidised to ensure maximum value.
Biomass beneficiation could bring several significant advantages to the economy, the environment and have far-reaching social impact in these areas. The project has potential to create new manufacturing and jobs in the biomass beneficiation application sectors. The removal of IAV will unlock significant amounts of water, while the biomass itself could bring other positive effects depending on the application areas. Topics related to jobs creation, skills development, investments in education could be all become areas to benefit. Current work is to find where value with the biomass can possibly be unlocked.
This project will focus on mapping the value chain for selected viable biomass beneficiation applications, identifying gaps and opportunities within the different parts of the value chain: IAV treatment (felling, extraction, harvesting), processing the biomass, logistics requirements, manufacturing and product development. These steps are carefully analysed, in order to identify the cost, value and potential issues arising.
Several biomass beneficiation application areas have already been identify as relevant: energy, wood pellets, activated carbon, biochar and school desks. The coming months will help us to define what is the most relevant and valuable applications.
To ensure this project is fully viable with the intended impacts, we need to engage with relevant stakeholders. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to share information or ideas.
Jaisheila Rajput, Founder & CEO of Tomorrow Matters Now, speaking about Sustainable Innovation & Collaboration. Sustainability has strong elements of collaboration. Watch and engage as Jaisheila invites the audience to engage with “I like, I wish and I wonder”.