JSIF goes 'green', a first in the region
Published: Wednesday | March 25, 2009
George Blake, information systems manager at the Jamaica Social Investment Fund. - FILE
The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) in January became the first government agency in the English-speaking Caribbean to be certified ISO 14001 as fully compliant with the standards of environmental management.
For an agency that is reliant on environmentally sensitive funding agencies for the majority of the financing it uses to develop social infrastructure, it is a significant achievement, says George Blake, JSIF general manager of project development, corporate communications, strategic planning and technology.
The JSIF, within the last 13 years, has spent upwards of $1 billion on approximately 1,000 projects which included schools, health centres, water and sanitation systems, feeder roads, multipurpose sports facilities and other community infrastructure.
The agency, since 1996, has amassed loans and grants from local and overseas sources amounting to US$148.6 million, the distribution of which happens at intervals on a timeline that stretches to December 31, 2013, according to information on the JSIF website.
Financiers include the Jamaican, Japanese and Netherlands governments and overseas donor agencies such as the World Bank, European Union, Inter-American Development Bank and Caribbean Development Bank.
Typically, the JSIF partners with community organisations whose members contribute 'sweat equity' - that is, labour - to the projects.
Community participation is valued at US$2.87 million on the website.
Part of JSIF's job is training for its project partners in sustainable and environment friendly practices.
Its certification by the International Standards Organization is recognition of that aspect of its function.
ISO 14001 certification goes towards ensuring that there will be money for more projects, said Blake.
"The World Bank, CIDA and other international funding agencies are very big on the environment," he said.
"Certification makes us that much more attractive in that it gives them the assurance that projects for which funds are awarded are being implemented to the highest international standards where the environment is concerned."
However, it took a painstaking two-year programme of documenting all work procedures with a view to environmental impact and standards compliance which prepared the organisation for certification.
Expenditure of US$150,000 for the project was mostly invested in training and public education, the JSIF spokesman said.
"We had to document all producers for environmental impact and also make sure that everyone in contact with the projects understood what needed to be done."
However, now that the certification process is complete the documentation of work over the last two years will result in better institutional memory - reducing errors in the future as well as the cost of training as the manuals developed are now available for incoming and other staff.
Practise the principles
Many JSIF projects are implemented in low income inner-city areas where Blake states green technology including recycling has 'spread like the gospel'.
"We have done training in the schools," and hopefully individuals will take the lessons home, Blake adds.
An agency like the National Solid Waste Management Authority, and those who clean and maintain drains, could see savings, he said, should residents internalise and practise the principles of solid waste management.
Within the JSIF offices, greening has also meant printing on double sided paper which has saved the company significantly in operational costs.