Sustainable Company Awards 2023

Plastic reduction initiative of the year, global: NetCYCLE Africa; Sustainability thought leader of the year, EMEA: Venan Sondo, Chaint Afrique

NetCYCLE Africa, a project by Ghanaian circular economy not-for-profit Chaint Afrique Academy, seeks to tackle the problem of plastic waste and abandoned fishing gear that washes up along the coast and lake communities of Ghana.

The programme works with communities and local authorities to create awareness of the impact of plastic pollution on human bodies, the ocean, and aquatic life.

NetCYCLE says its response goes beyond beach cleanups with the creation of interactive community touchpoints called iTouchPoints (iTPs) which serve as a buyback portal for discarded fishnets and other types of plastic waste.

Currently, there are three operational iTPs and 17 satellite locations across Ghana. NetCYCLE has plans to scale this to 100 iTPs in Ghana and intends to expand to other coastal countries in Africa.

The programme also creates alternative sources of income for local communities through revenue generated from the sale of recycled plastic waste. NetCYCLE says $40,000 in revenue has been generated across 50 fishing communities.

One awards judge called it a "great initiative with positive plastic repurposing and community impacts".

Chaint Afrique's CEO, Venan Sondo, has also won Sustainability thought leader of the year in this year's Sustainable Company Awards.

Judges noted his leadership in championing circular economy education and initiatives across West Africa.

According to Chaint Afrique, this year he led a Circular Economy Competition for the EU Delegation in Ghana, provided mentorship on the circular economy for over 100 SMEs across various incubators and accelerators in Ghana, and led the Plastics Sector section of Ghana's Circular Economy Road Map and Action Plan.

He has also worked with the Development Bank of Ghana and Ghana's Access Bank on several sustainability initiatives.

Cameroon-born Sondo studied environmental engineering in Germany, and worked in the UK and Europe, before returning to Africa to head the Sustainability and Climate Change Practice in Ghana for PwC.

"I was one of the first black African chartered environmentalists in the UK," he told Environmental Finance.

Since launching the NetCYCLE initiative, Sondo says he has travelled over 3,000km across fishing communities in Ghana, "educating them, engaging with them and understanding their challenges with managing discarded fishnets".

He largely travelled by public transport to understand the challenges NetCYCLE field operatives would experience on the ground.

"I have demonstrated a passion for innovation and breaking new ground", he says. "I have dedicated my entire adult life to sustainability and safeguarding the environment and will continue to champion the narrative for years to come and inspire innovation, especially across Africa."