PM Guest Article

Project Management for Maximum Social and Environmental Impact

Priyanka Jariwala

Priyanka Jariwala is a sustainability zealot and has been with Saahas Zero Waste (SZW) since 2016. She is a Senior Project Manager and leads the operations team that ensures SZW’s processes are robust and streamlined for 60+ client engagements across Bengaluru in waste management.

Saahas Zero Waste (SZW) is a social enterprise that works to alleviate poverty and prevent environmental degradation. It brings together nature, people and technology to provide efficient waste management solutions. SZW draws from all the three elements to offer and execute solutions that are sustainable, scalable and transparent.

At SZW, the three main business divisions are the Zero Waste Program (ZWP), Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) & Sustainable Products. All three divisions have different purposes, applications and teams.

The values embraced by the company act as a moral compass at every level of operation and decision-making. These decisions help achieve SZW’s short-term sustainability and social impact goals; it also plays an important role in building up the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As part of its commitment to SDGs, SZW will divert 122 tonnes of waste/day from landfills and provide dignified livelihood to 800 people from lower socio-economic groups.

Listed below are the steps through which SZW intends to deliver on its commitment to maximize impact:

Setting a Standard

Years of experience in this field has helped SZW refine its solutions and methods. An organisation needs to set rules and frameworks that have to be adhered in all the work that it does. This acts as the bare minimum parameter in all the work that it does.

The majority of SZW’s social impact goals are met by making employee-centric measures part of its HR policy. Unlike the majority of the players in the waste sector, all of SZW’s 250 employees (including the field staff that manages waste at client locations) are permanent staff on SZW’s pay-rolls.

The employees are paid wages as per the labour laws and SZW also provides them with all social security benefits. Besides, the staff is also required to wear personal protective equipment whenever they are handling waste and SZW regularly provides them training on their health and safety.

Assess & Plan

In spite of the best efforts to maintain a set of rules, there is always room for improvement. For example, within the ZWP program, the rules are not universally applicable between a zero-waste tech park and a zero-waste event. It can also differ within the same discipline based on different client needs and requirements.

To address this, the SZW team visits sites and audits before a client is on-boarded as well as throughout the engagement. The observations help in deciding the best plans to tackle individual cases. These plans are subject to change through the course of the year after periodic assessments.

Right Partners & Vendors

It is important to tie up with other businesses and service providers who align with SZW’s values. An ideological mismatch can throw a spanner in the works of the best-intentioned sustainability and impact plans.

SZW’s business relies on a lot of external partners within and outside the waste management space. A working relationship is established after a thorough due diligence as well as conversations with the highest decision-makers in the partner company to ensure compatibility in values.

Report, Refine & Improve

Every standalone event and every operation at a client location is subject to immediate and accurate reports once the operational data becomes available. This gives SZW an overview of the impact of its initiatives and also helps to identify opportunities to further refine its methods.

The waste management process includes collection, segregation, transportation, treatment and disposal. All these activities are complex; includes different stakeholders, processes and logistics. There is strong project management underlying SZW’s engagements. Using the management steps of planning, partnering and refining its approach, SZW intends to flawlessly execute every engagement and achieve its sustainability and social impact goals.

You can read more about SZW on their website