The circular economy has become more accepted as a management principle as consumers prefer to make more sustainable buying decisions – rewarding companies that subscribe to these practices. One of our clients – a large alcoholic beverage maker that is pursuing a “shared value” strategy and also needed to reduce spend on glass bottles – embarked on an ambitious venture to create sustainable jobs in the so-called “informal economy”. As we know from recent statistics this space is bigger from an employment perspective than the formal employment sector, e.g.

It’s been a challenge for corporates to engage with the informal economy to stimulate job creation and entrepreneurship at a more grassroots level, but this is crucial to make an often “fuzzy” Shared Value strategy more tangible and get senior leadership buy-in. In recent work have pursued various “shared value” projects and are starting to see real traction and commercial impact.

One of these has just received some global recognition and attention, that we are proud to share. The intent is to set up various bottle buy-back centres and turn these into diversified recycling operations that provide sustainable employment in impoverished areas of South Africa. It’s set up as a “win-win” for all stakeholders and can be rolled out at scale with more strategic partnerships.

The basic idea is to set up small-sale diversified recycling operations in South Africa – but mainly focused on glass in this case as it is a strategic spend category for our corporate partner – that are linked into their supply chains and can benefit from basic business training, mentoring and market access through exposure to corporate networks.

We have been invited to the UN’s global innovation lab to present this project and co-create new solutions to the SDG’s with other global talents, so watch this space:

This seems like a great platform to showcase some of our thinking around stimulating entrepreneurship in emerging markets to a global audience.