Green Innovations and Entrepreneurship in South Africa: The role of SMMEs

Green Innovations and Entrepreneurship in South Africa: The role of SMMEs

  • New Economy Accelerator (NEA) hosts dialogue series
  • NEA discusses green innovations and entrepreneurship with Mr William Hugh MD of Impahla Clothing (Pty) Ltd

Cape Town, 17 November 2015 – Last week Thursday 12th November, the New Economy Accelerator, a programme supporting enterprises that service or operate at the base of the pyramid (BoP), tried a different approach to hosting their dialogues with the aim of getting more insight from the public. The key theme of the dialogue was Green Innovations and Entrepreneurship in South Africa, with particular attention on going beyond “business as usual”.

The evening was kicked off with an address by Mr William Hugh, the managing director of Impahla Clothing (Pty) Ltd. Impahla Clothing is the manufacturer of high quality apparel clothing servicing customers such as PUMA, Adidas, Asics, UZZI and Merrell. The largest drawing card about Impahla clothing is about how it started as a small business and grew into a multi-million rand company whilst adhering to the commitment of building sustainable relationships with both people and the planet. Mr William Hugh emphasized that businesses were more likely to succeed if they invested in their employees and built a culture of trust within the working environment. The growth of the Impahla business from 60 employees in 2004 to over 300 in 2015 and low employee turnover rates is testament to that. In addition, the sustainable use of resources is a key driver of the business. Mr Hugh stated that their mandate is to use resources in such a way that it is still available for the next generation.

A world café style led by Michael Weatherhead of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) was then hosted with 3 key questions posed to the participants. The key responses are listed below each question;

  1. Why is achieving an equitable and sustainable economy the job of SMMEs?
  • It is not only the job of SMMEs, everyone from government, to corporate and individual citizens must play a crucial role in achieving an equitable and sustainable economy
  • SMMEs are more aware of the realities and needs on the ground
  • The structure of SMMEs allows for faster decision making and therefore action that brings about change
  • SMMEs are more likely to place emphasis on the growth of local economies
  • SMMEs are more likely to create context specific solutions rather than the one-size-fits-all model of big business
  1. What is an equitable and sustainable global economy?

One that

  • Recognizes many economies
  • Allows fair distribution of benefits of the economy
  • Is inclusive in the decision making processes
  • Recognizes planetary limits
  • Shifts the measures of success
  1. How can SMMEs be supported to play a key role, and who are key partners to enable this?
  • Policy reform – less red tape for SMMEs, creating an enabling environment for SMMes
  • Easier access to financing
  • Consumers buying local brands – achieving a sense of Ubuntu, everyone one succeeds when we support each other
  • Education

The NEA provides the platform for enterprises to go beyond business as usual, supporting and fostering businesses that want to bring about change in meaningful ways in communities that need it the most. Each of the ten enterprises supported by the NEA is undergoing 9 months of business training including one-on-one coaching and peer mentoring, with expected outcomes being experienced at the BoP rather than change trickling down from the top.

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