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Ecocentric: Jutta Berns-Mumbi

A green buildings consultant combines passion for the environment with good business sense to produce a compelling value proposition.

Juliet Pitman



Juta Berns-Mumbi of Ecocentric

There’sa new term, coined as a result of the green revolution, that’s currently doingthe rounds. It’s called “greenwashing” and it is to “green” what windowdressing is to BEE. Companies have recognised the considerable marketing andbrand loyalty value to be gained from being green and therefore use anyenvironmentally-friendly activity, however tenuous its link or questionable itstrue environmental impact, to position themselves as such. It’sa trend that gets up Jutta Berns-Mumbi’s nose. “Being green should be about havinga true, measurable, positive impact on the environment,” says the MD ofEcocentric, a green building consultancy which partners with organisations tomake their new and existing premises green. “Of course there is nothing wrongin leveraging your company’s green activities for marketing purposes, but thereality is that most companies that greenwash aren’t interested in making areal change to the environment,” she adds.

Seeing the gap

Inthe United States,greenwashing has quickly led to consumer fatigue and cynicism, and forBerns-Mumbi’s business it presents both challenges and opportunities. On theone hand, there’s the risk of Ecocentric being lumped together with every othercompany that’s looking to make a quick buck out of the green revolution. “Assomeone who was trained as an environmental economist, the environment issomething I have always been passionate about, personally as well asprofessionally. Over the years I’ve seen ‘green’ issues shift from the fringeto being more mainstream, as people have realised the need for urgency inchanging the way we manage the environment,” she says. But what this means isthat suddenly a niche market has become flooded. Onthe other hand, however, there’s a real opportunity for a company likeEcocentric to set itself apart from the herd as the accredited expert in itssector. Which is precisely what Berns-Mumbi has done.

Differentiatingthe business

Inhelping companies come up with strategies to make new and existing buildingsgreen, Ecocentric takes an holistic and integrated approach. “We look ateverything from construction, materials and water and energy resources tooverall greenhouse gases and carbon footprint. A green building is so much morethan one that recycles paper or turns off lights,” she says. Thisintegrated approach is coupled with a strict adherence to principles set out ininternational green building ratings tools, and Ecocentric works together withthe South African and US Green Building councils. “These rating tools are veryimportant because they provide external verification, based on internationallyaccepted benchmarks, that a building is green,” she says. This not only givesclients an expert stamp of approval, but it goes a long way to preventinggreenwashing.

Establishingexpert status

Ecocentric’sposition as a leader has been strengthened by Berns-Mumbi’s own reputation asan expert in the green building and environmental management industry. Along with her degree in environmentaleconomics, she is one of just two people in South Africa to have a LEED(Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) professional accreditation fromthe US Green Building Council. She is in the process of seeking accreditationfrom BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) in the UK and Green Star in South Africa, and has been invitedto speak at various environmental conferences. She also sits on the technicalcommittee of the Green Directory, a supplier and services list of truly greencompanies, which is currently being compiled by one of her associates. “It willalso help to reduce greenwashing,” she says.

A businessapproach

Butwhile Berns-Mumbi is passionate about the environment, she’s not an eco-hippie.“I’m not about trying to convince people to eat muesli and live in a grass house,”she laughs. “Green buildings make sense for businesses because they reducecosts, and I highlight these benefits to clients. There’s a compelling story tobe told about why it makes sense to go green, and that’s what I focus on.”It’sa story to which big business is starting to pay attention. Ecocentric iscurrently in the process of helping one of South Africa’s leadingtelecommunications providers to pursue LEED certification for its head officebuilding. “Aswe see more companies embracing the fact that green is not about scoringpoints, but about making a real impact, our market is going to grow. Thechallenge is to make sure we keep up and retain our expert status,” she says.Is it a challenge the business is up to? You bet. +27 11 646 8103

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Company Posts

Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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