The Creative Industry can Champion Sustainable Consumption

By Phyllis Wakiaga

Our quest to attain a green economy should be broad-based and inclusive. But we cannot achieve this if the vision of sustainability is not shared by every one of us. The common mistake, when it comes to developing and implementing sustainable initiatives, has been fencing the discussions in boardrooms and high-level meetings and thereafter straight into the grass-roots to begin the implementation. However, whilst it is inevitable to seek high-level buy-in for sustainable measures, this approach creates a knowledge gap which, in the end, waters down the effectiveness of the strategies we create towards this endeavour.

Growing up I remember plays, skits, songs, paintings, artefacts and drama being a common thread that united citizenry from different parts of the country. Humour, satire, tragedy and innovation were widely used as easily palatable ways to relay ideas, influence cultural change and encourage citizen participation on national issues. Cultural expressions have always been strategically positioned to push social, political and economic issues and we, as a nation, need to adopt them to drive smart and sustainable growth towards vision 2030.

Creative Industry’s role

One major sustainability concern our country has been grappling with, is that of entrenching Sustainable Consumption. How can we use goods and services responsibly, with an aim to maintain social equity and at the same time minimize the effects to the environment? Granted a big part of this challenge has been inadequate infrastructure and systems; still, to a larger extent, the glaring shortfall has been the lack of awareness by citizens. We have simply not been able to translate the ‘Why’ to the most important part of our citizenry, who are also the most affected by adverse environmental changes. Why should they care? Why should they be involved? Why is sustainable consumption important?

Sustainable consumption means using only what we need and disposing any wastes thereafter in a responsible way. It is about reducing wastage, for example, over-consumption and depletion natural resources. It requires that our subsequent disposal of waste, following consumption, being mindful to minimize pollution and restore the environment for the sake of future generations. This ideology has to be ingrained into our culture right from our homes. Our personal space is the first intimate contact we have with the environment. How we treat this environment should be replicated to communal and public spaces. There is no point in having a clean house within a dirty neighbourhood because disease vectors are not respecters of ‘personal space’.

The creative industry has the ability to promote these ideas in a memorable and impactful way catalyzing the uptake of sustainable initiatives in our homes. They can help us instill these ideas in our children and make sustainable consumption practices common place in our communities. Creatives will help bridge the gap between public and private spaces by demonstrating how our connection to vegetation and animal life is vital for our own survival.

Creative industry potential

There are so many artisans in the creative and JuaKali industries turning scrap metal, waste tyres, plastic bags and bottles, wires and rods and even waste paper into art that they sell both locally and internationally. Examples are companies such as Ocean Sole that recycles old flip-flops (slippers) into sculptures, carvings and jewelry. In fact, many artisans in Kenya could be equipped to teach citizens how to make the most from used material in their homes. This is precisely where industry comes in to offer support in terms of training facilities and equipment, as well as, financial remuneration and funding to increase the lucrative aspect of this business and so on.

According to the Kenya Copyright Board, the creative industry in Kenya accounts for 5.3% of the GDP and has the potential to grow its contribution to 10% in the next 10 years. It is no secret that creative interventions have been drivers of social change throughout history. Galvanizing nations around pivotal causes and helping bridge social divides. Isn’t it time to build their capacity to advance our sustainability vision?

The writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the UN Global Compact Representative to Kenya. She Chairs the Kenya Industrial Water Alliance and can be reached on

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