Aidex Voices

Ignoring social and environmental impact is bad for business, which is why NRS International are going ‘all in’ on SDG 12.

 With the growing number of health and humanitarian crises today, millions of relief items are distributed to the affected populations every year. Most people are unaware of the production effort it takes to address these emergencies. Last year alone, NRS International have provided 77 million relief and health products, reaching 135 million beneficiaries worldwide.

The demand for relief essentials and malaria-preventing nets is imperative and immediate. And yet, we should no longer use that as an excuse for ignoring the social and environmental impacts caused by their production. It is time for the humanitarian supply chain to take the responsibility upon themselves to reduce their impact on the planet since the beneficiaries are in no position to take on that burden.

Keeping that in mind, NRS International has decided to go ‘all in’ on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 – Sustainable Production and Consumption. To them, half of the targets under SDG 12 speak directly to humanitarian suppliers, and they have decided to embrace them in their corporate strategy, namely:

1 – Efficient use of natural resources

2 – Reduce, recycle and reuse

3 – Sustainable procurement

4 – Sustainability reporting

5 – Chemicals and waste management

Inspired by SDG 12 and international corporate sustainability trends, NRS International are taking a stronger grip on their social and environmental indicators, tracking them periodically and systematically in order to monitor progress. Their goal is to gradually increase the insertion of those aspects in their public reports. NRS certainly hope transparency spreads across the humanitarian sector and they aim to provide their buyers with sustainability benchmarks to facilitate procurement decisions.

Inspired by their customers, UN agencies and aid organisations, they are also engaging their own suppliers more deeply on sustainability aspects. For the past few years, they have seen an increase in questionnaires, audits and general enquiries regarding production that go beyond quality. The SDG 12 target on ‘sustainable procurement’ was first intended to target governments. However, it was soon aimed at corporations and, more recently, UN agencies such as UNICEF - which has released their own supply/procurement procedure based on SDG 12.

Earlier in 2018, the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) launched an important ‘Green Initiative’ asking humanitarian suppliers to calculate the carbon footprint of their relief products. This is particularly relevant when considering that close to 100% of their product portfolio uses plastic as a raw material, which is a crucial quality requirement. In fact, strict technical specifications and quality control have been one of the cornerstones in humanitarian procurement. These products must withstand harsh climates and precarious conditions to serve their purpose.

Adamant to not compromise the quality of their products, NRS have implemented procedures to reduce the impact of plastic on the planet. For example, they have a zero-waste policy and in-house recycling facilities. They recycle and re-use plastic waste as much as possible, mostly on packaging material, accessories and items for internal use. And whatever is not repurposed, they still recycle it into granules and sell it to local factories for reuse.

NRS International have started to get creative with their waste and introduced two up cycling ideas recently. The Peace Doves project, a partnership with UK-based NGO Empathy Action, resulted in 650 doves made from leftover refugee blankets, with a special touch from some of the organisation’s female workers in Pakistan. The doves are intended to be a token of hope and peace for anyone wishing to spread that message. The Tent Tote project aims to produce bags made from tent material offcuts, such as poly-cotton and tarpaulin fabric. These bags are literally made from the same batch of tents that are sheltering displaced, vulnerable people out there.

The Peace Doves and Tent Tote are non-profit upcycling projects from NRS International with the aim to raise awareness for refugees and promote a sustainable humanitarian supply chain. They make a great corporate gift, and these two projects represent an essential step towards a circular economy for relief items.

NRS International stands firmly behind SDG 12 as sustainability for them means responsible production. Just like any other private company, they also need financial sustainability and profit to survive, and acknowledge that ignoring social and environmental impact is bad for business. As a humanitarian supplier, NRS recognise they are part of a supply chain too important to fail, and that sustainability means, in many ways, honoring the purpose of their products.

NRS International will be exhibiting at AidEx in Brussels across 14 and 15 November 2018. Visit them on stand F13 by registering to attend here.