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Who is managing your reverse logistics?

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I recently wrote an article that was enlightening the Zimbabwean public and business on the role of procurement in conserving the environment.

It emphasised that green procurement is only achieved if the procurement is strategically positioned in organisations.

Buyers will be able to come up with strategies that include engaging suppliers that have an appetite for environmental conservation and make procurement decisions with less impact on the environmental instead of focusing on price in solitude.

Reverse logistics in procurement need to be a part of the business plan.

We are all familiar with forward logistics where goods and services travel from suppliers to customers.

The reverse is when customers need to take back the goods to the suppliers, this time not in the context of returns of rejects which in most instances is covered by the contract of sale.

Has anyone ever thought of reverse logistics of used up goods that are not biodegradable? Imagine the effects on the environment that waste such as beverage containers are posing to environment and society at large.

Moving around town, I have noticed some effort to collect empty aluminium cans.

Some cages have been put around watering holes and shopping malls to collect recyclable aluminium. That effort is commendable. What about effects the littered dumpy bottles give to the environment?

These containers have no deposit attached to them, who is responsible for managing their disposal?

I smiled recently when I read about the efforts Zesa was putting to reduce power demand. The power utility is poised to make substantial energy saving with the introduction of compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs.

According to Fullard Gwasira, the company invested $12 million to purchase about six million bulbs that they intend to exchange for free with the less efficient incandescent light bulbs. The benefit to Zesa and Zimbabwe is an estimated 250 megawatt saving a year.

Who is responsible to manage reverse logistics of CFL bulbs? The question is pertinent because the same report had some not so good news, the acquired six million CFL bulbs were a health hazard. They emit toxins although at a lesser rate than fluorescent bulbs.

From an environmental perspective, what is going to be the effect of over six million bulbs heaped at the corners of city roads?

The fact I am trying to put across is that procurement decisions are not concerned by environmental issues. Zesa’s procurement unit has just proved that it is not strategically positioned to influence environmental management strategies.

Zesa was supposed to have put as part of its product specification and condition of contract measures to manage reverse logistics so that these bulbs do not end up heaped in city street corners.

The Environmental Management Authority needs to ensure that Zesa is put to task to manage reverse logistics of CFL bulbs before we start witnessing used toxic bulbs pilling up at the rate at which imported empty beverage bottles are.

To effectively manage reverse logistics of CFL bulbs, the whole supply chain needs to be involved as it is practised in South Africa. Used bulbs are taken back to the shops where the disposal of toxic waste is effectively managed.

These bulbs are crushed and neutralised using appropriate chemicals to reduce the environmental impact.

Chemicals such as mercury require appropriate disposal management and it is about time corporate citizens take that matter seriously.

The recent procurement by Zesa simply proved my earlier assertion that many procurement units were only clerical and reactionary, responsible only for responding to user purchase requisitions.

Will this not be one of the sources of cancer in Zimbabwe?

Nyasha Chizu is the branch chairman of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply. He can be contacted on: chizunyasha@yahoo.com

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