Uganda | ORIBAGS Innovations, leaders on SDGs 12 and 8

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This month, we’re thrilled to shine the spotlight on a member of the Impacti community of sustainable businesses - ORIBAGS  Innovations in Kampala, Uganda. 

Oribags’ vision is to be the leading producer of eco-friendly products and services in East Africa. We sat down with Rusia Orikiza last month to discuss why she decided to start a business aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and why it’s important to her to tell her business’ impact story through the lens of the SDGs.

What’s the origin story of Oribags? 

The Government of Uganda announced a ban on polythene bags in 2007 when I was just a first year student at Makerere University. I saw a business opportunity to create environmentally friendly packaging as a replacement. I decided to develop an innovative business model that upcycles local bio-waste materials while creating jobs for women and youth and utilizing zero carbon production processes.  

Why is it important to make positive social and environmental impact?

Waste is a growing problem in Uganda. Every citizen disposes at least half a tonne of trash each year. Only 55% of the solid waste generated in Kampala is collected and managed. And most Ugandan enterprises and institutions still send over 90% of recyclable materials to the landfill or incinerate them. This compromises the environment and creates pollution that lowers the quality of life for all Ugandans. 

What’s more, with over 3/4 of the population below the age of 30, Uganda ranks among the top African countries with the highest youth unemployment rates in the  region. Sustainable waste management is  a great  opportunity to  promote social inclusion as well as create decent green jobs. 

Our rapid population growth also means there are more youth and women in need of jobs. At ORIBAGS, we put women and youth empowerment at the center of our operations by providing on-the-job training and supply chain development programs. In this way ORIBAGS  helps  to build the robust workforce needed for the low carbon economy of the future.

How do the SDGs inform the way you do business? 

The SDGs have helped to guide our 5 core values at ORIBAGS, we’ve aligned our company’s vision, mission, and culture to the SDGs. They provide an easy way to link how our everyday business actions make a positive impact on the big societal issues we are trying to tackle in Uganda. 

SDG 12 Sustainable Production & Consumption: We promote the circular economy model in Uganda so that people know that their waste is gold! In 2019, we transformed 2,028 tons of waste into new products, saving 34,000 trees and replacing 16 million plastic bags.

SDG 8 Great Work: We aim to support our people along a career path tailored to each person’s abilities and potential. Last year we created 15 new jobs and trained 65 people for work as waste entrepreneurs.

SDG 9 Innovation: We innovate, keep open minds and lead by inspiration. Our R&D focuses on developing low tech and zero carbon production processes that offer 100% biodegradable packaging and stationery.

SDG 5 Women: We put the needs of women at the center of our benefits policies, job training, and supply chain development programmes. We were one of the first companies to join the UNDP Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme and champion the UNDP-EU Uganda spotlight initiative to combat gender based violence in the workplace.

What are your next big sustainability goals? 

In order to do more for our planet, prosperity and our partners, we have set ambitious targets that form part of our sustainability plan.

On SDG 8, we aim to create 5,000 new quality job opportunities and upgrade existing jobs for our employees by 2025. This will be achieved by expanding our waste recovery and recycling operations and by turning waste pickers into waste entrepreneurs that recover materials from agricultural, office and domestic waste streams across Uganda.  

On SDG 12, we aim to recover 90% of the recyclable waste in Kampala by 2025, moving our city and our country towards a greener economy. 

How would you describe your company culture?

Our company culture is vibrant, proactive, open and inclusive guided by SDGs 8 and 5. We want to build a great workplace where everyone feels equal support from co-workers across all roles and levels. 

  • At our factory we have green gardens where we grow healthy and sustainable food to share with all of our staff. 
  • We support young mothers by providing childcare and breastfeeding facilities as well as maternity leave and flexi-time for pregnant women. 

As our company grows, we constantly look out for parts of our culture that we can scale through our strategic partnerships aligned with SDG 17. Right now we are focusing on those that promote respect among all employees; how we treat each other and how we engage with other people in our value chain.

What markets does ORIBAGS  serve?

Our major clients are local in Uganda, many of whom learned about ORIBAGS through our social media marketing campaigns, professional networking and client referrals. We offer packaging solutions to clients across many industries from florists, stationary, restaurants, hotels and hospitality. We also sell directly to consumers through our retail outlet in Kampala where we make eco-friendly packaging and gifts available in many designs, sizes, shapes and colours.

What’s next for ORIBAGS? 

We are working towards strengthening the waste recovery and supply chain in Uganda and encouraging consumers to buy eco-friendly products to build up the green and circular economy in Uganda. This allows us to build resilience into the Ugandan supply chain and distribution chains, an especially challenge in these abnormal Coronavirus times. 

What’s more, we want to continue to innovate, strengthen our brand’s reputation, and build new partnerships with companies working towards similar goals. We are excited to have the opportunity to use the Impacti platform to help track and share our impact story so that we bring our experience and solutions to more people and connect with like-minded businesses around the world. 

A big congratulations to ORIBAGS!

The Impacti team wants to thank Rusia for taking the time to answer our questions and share her inspiring founder’s journey. Learn more about Rusia and ORIBAGS  Innovations by checking out their Impact Profile in the Impacti platform.