EnviroServ: How South Africa’s largest waste management company delivers a sustainable supply chain

EnviroServ: How South Africa’s largest waste management company delivers a sustainable supply chain

As new lifestyles and new technologies enter the fray, society has also seen the rise of another by-product – waste. A few decades ago we didn’t have to think about how we disposed of our smartphones or how we’d navigate stringent waste regulations, but for today’s businesses, it’s more important than ever.

Since opening its doors in 1979, EnviroServ Waste Management (Pty) Ltd. has been first to market with many groundbreaking waste management solutions, some of which are still recognised as best practice in the sector. Now, thanks to this pioneering approach, the company has established itself as one of the largest waste management firms in South Africa today.

Recognising the importance of protecting both the environment and community, EnviroServ’s sustainable ethos has become a guiding principle in all that it does. Rakesh Seetal, Head of Procurement and Supply Chain, says that it’s the company’s leading reputation that distinguishes it from the rest.

“EnviroServ is a waste management company that uses ethical and best practices in the disposal of waste recycling,” he explains. “We use the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. We may use landfill if necessary but a key motivator for the company is thinking of alternative uses of waste.

“As part of our ethos, we put our customers first and provide them with the best alternatives for waste disposal or waste management. We've done it responsibly for many years. As a result, our reputation precedes our marketing efforts. Working with our customers for decades has really helped us become a leader in the market.”

Like any business, a robust supply chain function has been a key driver of growth at EnviroServ. With a spend of over ZAR50mn ($3.8mn) under its belt, the South African company has implemented an increasing number of benchmarking activities to ensure that it’s upholding only the best industry practices.   

As part of this, Seetal outlines how the waste management firm has streamlined its supplier network so that it can respond quickly to the market and enhance its value chain.

“We've just put more and more benchmarking exercises into our division,” he notes. “Four years ago, we had approximately 7,000 suppliers and now we have brought it down to about 1,400. Every day, we strive to get the best suppliers into our database. Through benchmarking or supply evaluations we weed out the ones that do not add value to our supply chain. All the benchmarking we have done and continue to do on a day-to-day basis helps us to get the right suppliers onboard.”

As well as offering environmentally-conscious products and services, EnviroServ has also championed cost-efficient waste management which is clearly evidenced by the firm’s procurement and supply chain function.

“One of the other strategic drivers in procurement is the need to bring savings into the supply chain. Strategic buying can help you get the right product at the right place at a lower price,” says Seetal. “Each of our divisions has set targets for savings; they strive to do more with less or to find alternative products or services to achieve our goals.”

EnviroServ prides itself on offering a range of specialist products and services, from hazardous waste services and waste collection services to waste recycling and on-site waste management. Like many countries across the globe, landfill is no longer seen as the preferred waste management option in South Africa. As a result, EnviroServ strives to use landfill as little as possible, instead offering alternative waste disposal services.

Over the past 40 years, EnviroServ has gained deep insight and experience across a variety of different industries such as the automotive, chemical and food and beverage sectors. Attracting and retaining some of the foremost scientists and engineers in the waste management field, the company has increasingly zeroed in on emerging technologies to offer alternative waste management solutions.

In doing so, technology is assisting the firm as it tries to address some of the biggest waste management issues facing industries today.

“We try not to do the same over and over again so finding new technologies and new products is paramount to our success,” highlights Seetal. “In our landfill sites, we are using classification projects and evaporation techniques and we are also looking at different technologies in the market. We send our technology managers across the world to see what technology is available and then we bring it back to South Africa.

“Additionally, we are always on the lookout for better equipment. We don't just stick to one brand because it's been the best in the past, we're always looking out for new alternatives.”

To reduce its customers’ reliance on landfill, Seetal highlights how EnviroServ is also exploring new ways it can upcycle waste materials.

“If you look at the waste management sector, ideas such as waste reusing, recycling or upcycling are some of the biggest trends that are happening today,” he notes. “Therefore, we are also looking to find companies that can use these waste materials.

“For example, a tyre could be used in road manufacturing or it could be used in the making of a mat.  Paper can be recycled into pulp and then reused. Plastic can be remodelled. Glass can be used in art material. We can support schools and art companies in providing such materials.”

Developing strong supplier relationships is a key aspect of any robust supply chain and it is something which hasn’t been overlooked at EnviroServ. When selecting suppliers, EnviroServ adopts a multi-faceted approach, taking into consideration issues such as such as price, product, service and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) into account.

As such, Seetal believes that the South African firm develops sincere relationships with the suppliers it works with. “At the end of the day, it is a partnership,” he says. “We believe that our suppliers are critical to our success and if they are successful, we are successful.”

On the frontline, EnviroServ’s dedicated team works closely with suppliers and learns first-hand about its customers.

“It's a small team of centralised buyers supported by regional buyers,” describes Seetal. “We need those regional buyers to get information from the ground floor. I believe that you cannot run a procurement division from head office alone. You need people who understand the problems, understand the challenges out in the field.”

Combining an industry-led reputation with a socially-conscious perspective, EnviroServ has pushed for continuous improvement across a spectrum of industries. It has become a trusted and preferred waste management supplier because it understands that, as exciting technologies enter the fore, sustainable waste management isn’t a finite concept. As society’s needs, habits and awareness of health and environmental issues have evolved, so has EnviroServ.

“We're currently one of the market leaders and we hope to stay there,” adds Seetal. “We want to grow and, whether that’s in South Africa, southern Africa or other neighbouring African countries, we want to be the best. We want to be a partner of choice. Procurement used to be a back-office function but now it is taking a leading role in creating this strategic competitive advantage.”

Rakesh Seetal