When Nazeh Ben Ammar went to the beach in his native Tunisia, he found the sea unnaturally blue. Indigo dye, used in the coloring of denim jeans, had been discharged into the sea by a manufacturer. Tunisia is a leading supplier of jeans to the European market, yet what Ben Ammar found upset him.
The company was damaging the environment and failing in its corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR became a ‘buzz word’ in Tunisian business circles following the Arab Spring, sparked by the Tunisian revolution 10 years ago.
‘Now we are failing in our responsibilities,’ says Ben Ammar, who describes himself as a ‘serial entrepreneur’ and ‘start-up enabler’. He himself cut short his career in the oil industry because of the role fossil fuels play in global warming.
As an alternative to oil, Tunisia and other north African countries have become renowned for their hectares of solar panels in the desert, erected by solar farms. But the historically powerful national trade union body resisted and slowed down the sale of solar power to the national grid because of the need to protect the jobs of union members at the power stations.