Waste Want is an example of how to make sustainability core to a business. Picture: SUPPLIED/SANLAM/GETTY IMAGES
Waste Want is an example of how to make sustainability core to a business. Picture: SUPPLIED/SANLAM/GETTY IMAGES

In SA, we recycle just 11% of the 42m tonnes of general waste we create each year. And this excludes hazardous waste such as batteries. Millennials are also the least likely to recycle, showing a worrying trend among emerging leaders.

Another concern is how we handle plastic. We’re in the top 20 global offenders for mismanaged waste and come second (after the US) for plastic waste generated per person per day. We need to prioritise sustainability in every sector of society, including corporates.

Waste Want is an example of how to make sustainability core to a business. This majority black- and women-owned enterprise was founded to help solve SA’s waste challenge while having a positive ripple effect on vulnerable, homeless young people. The company focuses on sustainability in terms of creating employment, having a positive environmental impact and educating young people. 

It’s the epitome of a progressive, forward-looking business that answers society’s call for companies to be forces for good. It’s also an excellent example of how solving real-world challenges is central to success for enterprises — a model for enterprise development.

Lydia Anderson-Jardine and husband Anthony Jardine cofounded the business in 2010. Having gone through Sanlam’s Enterprise and Supplier Development programme, they established the financial and business base to scale and process increased waste volumes with faster turnaround times. It now employs 29 people and has secured several big contracts, including a City of Cape Town tender.

Anderson-Jardine says the idea came from spotting a gap: “We were faced with financial challenges as a family and saw the need for the facilitation of recyclable waste in Cape Town. I immediately insisted we do something about it.”

A big takeout for other businesses is the success of Waste Want Youth. Waste Want works with night shelters to recruit homeless youths into the business, training them to sort recyclables and grade materials. Young people who complete the training are offered full-time employment. So far, about 70 young people have been assisted directly and 30 to 40 indirectly. Considering SA’s youth unemployment crisis, the effect of such a programme cannot be underestimated and it’s a model that other businesses could emulate.

“One of the highlights is also the growth that we have brought to our workers. Seeing people move from the homeless shelters back into their parental homes is a wonderful experience. That we can provide them with employment to be breadwinners in their home shows that sustainability happens all around,” says Anderson-Jardine.

Another key takeaway is Waste Want’s partnership with schools. Given that millennials seem to be the least likely to recycle, Waste Want is working with young people to ensure future generations are aware of responsible waste handling. Educating future clients makes business sense — and it benefits the country.

The main message for other small-business owners? The most successful entrepreneurs tend to be those who solve a real challenge South Africans face sustainably, in a way that benefits society and does good.

Anderson-Jardine says: “We see ourselves as a social enterprise. We seek to maximise our profits along with social and human wellbeing.

“I cannot reiterate enough that creating shared value is mutually beneficial to all parties involved. By growing our business, we’re contributing to the economy, creating jobs in the green economy, making a difference from an environmental standpoint and helping the people who work for us.”

Paula Barnard, the acting head of the Sanlam Foundation, says: “It’s a privilege to be able to work with enterprises like Waste Want. Sanlam has a long-standing commitment to the development of black enterprises in its supply chain and the protection of our natural resources. Our deep investments in both areas are testament to the fact we cannot divorce the creation of business wealth from protecting our natural wealth. We are wealthsmiths, which implies protecting and creating wealth across all categories.

“We believe social impact investing in the enterprise development space will become a big focus for the future. Additionally, the pace of innovation in sustainability and environmental awareness causes frequent value-chain disruption.

She adds: “Small and medium-sized enterprise owners need to be agile and responsive to the changes, and able to spot opportunities for growth in their offerings. This means staying abreast with trends. It’s key for them to attend networking and learning opportunities to ensure they can identify the risks and opportunities that change, disruption and innovation present.”

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This article was paid for by Sanlam Enterprise and Supplier Development.