Examining environmental sustainability of practices of selected supermarkets through ISO 14001 in Lusaka district, Zambia

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Sinyangwe, Bryan A.
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University of Zambia
Rapid increase in the number of Supermarkets in sub-Saharan Africa, and Zambia in particular, has been viewed as an indication of positive developmental growth. However, as with any other industry, the food retail industry produces waste and contributes to environmental degradation. The extent to which this industry has affected the environment has not been well ascertained, and the overall image that emerges from literature is that very few studies have been undertaken to assess the environmental impacts associated with Supermarkets. The study was inspired by the lack of sustainability education and the low levels of compliance by Supermarkets to both local and international environmental regulatory standards leading to poor environmental sustainability practices in Zambia. The object of this study, therefore, was to examine the environmental sustainability practices of selected Supermarkets in Zambia’s Lusaka District through ISO 14001 and to determine whether or not sufficient effort was made to improve sustainability. ISO 14001 is an internationally agreed standard that sets out requirements for an Environmental Management System (EMS). This standard identifies and establishes environmental impacts associated with business operations and suggests effective operational controls to manage the identified impacts. A qualitative descriptive survey was used, which utilized a structured interview schedule and an ISO Checklist tool as primary data collection instruments. Purposive sampling design, involving expert purposive sampling and homogenous purposive sampling techniques, were employed to select ten supermarkets and an additional fifty members of the general public. The obtained results were analyzed using thematic analysis approach. The study revealed that there were a number of environmental concerns associated with Supermarkets’ daily business operations, among which were solid waste generation leading to environmental pollution and littering. There were no policy guidelines that regulated the general operations of supermarkets regarding environmental protection as observed from the disparities in the measures supermarkets were engaged in to promote environmental sustainability. This explained the reason why there was very little understanding of the concept of environmental sustainability among members of the public and Supermarket management teams in particular. Only eight percent of Supermarkets were engaged in recycling as a means to promote environmental sustainability. These findings point to a need for policy development to promote best practices and standards that will guide business operations among supermarkets as well as guide training and education to improve sustainability education among all sectors of the economy and among members of the general public. The study recommends that there should be strict policy guidance that regulates business operations in supermarkets in order to promote sustainable business operations. All Supermarkets should also have operational Environmental Management Systems that address environmental problems associated with their daily business operations.
environmental management systems--Zambia , Business operations --Environmental impacts--Zambia