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Q&A with Pierre Coetzer, author of case study: Mondi (South Africa)

Pierre Coetzer is an associate at Reciprocity, a development consultancy based in Cape Town. He holds an MA in International Relations and Public Affairs from the University of Louvain (UCL) in Belgium, and a BA in Business Management from ICHEC in Brussels. He has seven years experience in Finance and Investment banking with Arthur Andersen in Luxembourg and Euroclear Bank in Brussels. He moved to Cape Town in 2007 to work as an independent analyst on socio-economic and political issues affecting countries in transition, with a special focus on Southern Africa. Within Reciprocity, Pierre is mainly in charge of researching, writing and publishing factsheets on inclusive business models and other initiatives aimed at expanding choice and opportunity for people at the base of the economic pyramid. He holds dual South African and French citizenship and is fluent in French, Afrikaans, English, and German.

Mondi Recycling, a stand-alone unit of Mondi Packaging South Africa is  the South Africa’ largest paper recycler.

To download the Mondi case study from the GIM database, please click here.

What has been your personal experience going through the GIM training and case research process?

Mondi quickly seized the opportunity to participate in the GIM process and from this perspective collaboration was enthusiastic and easy. On one level, though, the process was also quite controlled, and I tried to get a more independent view on the merits of the model.

What is Mondi’s basic value proposition and what makes its financial model sustainable?

This particular model is sustainable because it outsources a process (namely sourcing and delivering recovered paper) that was previously fully integrated into the company’s value chain. There are clear benefits for Mondi in terms of risk transfer, payroll management and costs. For the poor, the benefits are measured mainly in terms of empowerment through enterprise development, the transfer of assets and business skills, and higher than average incomes.

What have been the biggest challenges hindering Mondi’s development and growth?

One of the biggest challenges is the difficulty to source recovered fibre: South Africa still lacks a “recycling culture” compared to more developed countries, and a fairly large proportion (around 40%) of waste paper is lost to landfills. Mondi is lobbying government in this regard to help improve the waste recovery process with legislation. A second significant challenge will be to unlock the significant additional potential to further integrate the poor in the economic value chain of waste recovery. Mondi still seems hesitant in this regard, but it was clear that it is very keen to explore options to further develop and scale up inclusive business models.

What is the importance of effective waste management, and especially recycling services, for a country like South Africa?

It is of crucial importance: South Africa produces a lot of waste per capita and the recovery, reuse and recycling of waste material needs to be vastly improved. Steps are now underway to do this, with a national waste management strategy and legislation being implemented. The environmental and economic benefits of effective waste management are significant, with direct and indirect impacts on human development.

How can the poor benefit from effective waste management and recycling services?

The poor are already an essential part of the economic value chain of waste management in South Africa, and the Mondi fibre recovery chain is but one example of this. While at least 60,000 poor South Africans make a living by recovering metal, paper and glass, their position is precarious and would be much improved through formalisation and a fairer share of the economic value of recovered waste. Mondi is one of the corporates studying ways of doing this while maintaining a sustainable economic model.