Green industry is an approach that realizes the potential for industries to decouple economic growth from excessive and increasing resource use, thereby reducing pollution and generating additional revenues. It foresees a world where industrial sectors will minimize waste in every form, use renewable resources as input materials and fuels, and take every possible precaution to avoid harming workers, communities, climate, or the environment. Green industries will be creative and innovative, constantly developing new ways of improving their economic, environmental and social performance.
Enterprises in developing countries and countries with economies in transition are facing numerous challenges in their effort to maintain or increase their competitiveness on the local market and access to international markets with good-quality products, comply with environmental standards and reduce operational costs. In order to assist companies in dealing with such challenges and to direct them towards the “green industry” paradigm, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) designed a specific methodology, the Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology (TEST), which exists as both an integrated approach and a global programme.
TEST combines the essential elements of tools like Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production, Environmental Management Systems and Environmental Management Accounting, and applies them on the basis of a comprehensive diagnosis of enterprise performance. As a result of the customized integration and implementation of these tools and their elements, the key output is the adoption of best practices, and new skills and management culture, as well as corporate social responsibility, enabling the company to carry on the improvement journey towards sustainable entrepreneurship.
The first TEST pilot programme was launched in 2000 in the Danube River Basin. Since then, TEST has been replicated in several regions worldwide within industrial hot spot areas, contributing to the prevention of the discharge of industrial effluents into international waters (rivers, lakes, wetlands and coastal areas) and thereby protecting water resources for future generations.
In 2009, UNIDO launched the MEDTEST initiative with the financial support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Italian government to promote the transfer and adoption of cleaner technology in industries in three countries of the Southern Mediterranean region: Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
The project aimed to demonstrate the effectiveness of introducing best practices and integrated management systems in terms of cost reduction, productivity increase and environmental performance. A pool of 43 manufacturing sites – mostly small and medium-sized enterprises – across seven industrial sectors in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia actively participated in MED TEST during 2010-2011.
A core objective of the MED TEST initiative was building national capacity. This was achieved by extensive training and a technical assistance programme that targeted six national institutions and service providers and 30 local professionals, in addition to the staff of the 43 demonstration companies. As a result, a network of local resources is now engaged in promoting the TEST approach and will be able to extend the experience gained to other industries in the region. The active participation of the staff of the demonstration companies in the training and in the implementation of the project ensures the sustainability of all identified actions at company level, as well as that of
newly developed projects.
Consumers care more than ever before about the environmental impact of the products they buy, and companies are incorporating green business trends in order to capitalize on this growing demand. As of 2014, “55% of consumers across 60 countries [were] willing to pay higher prices for goods from environmentally conscious companies… 71% of Americans at least consider the environment as a factor when shopping,” according to a green industry report.
In addition to the revenue-boosting effect from ‘going green’, businesses can also appreciate some significant savings from reduced energy costs by incorporating sustainability and energy efficiency into their products, practices and operations.
Innovative & Renewable Energy
Renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, have been impacting commercial industries for several years, creating more sustainable practices across the board. Renewable energy and innovative methods of sourcing energy is now more mainstream in business-to-consumer markets as well. As in residential scenarios, businesses can offset their usage and costs by implementing renewable methods like solar paneling. Businesses are also finding more unique ways to generate energy — one company is even turning food waste and sewage into usable energy!
Waste is the antithesis to green behavior, whether it happens with energy, products and supplies, or food. Feeding America® reports an estimated 70 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year in the United States alone. This food waste generates more greenhouse gases that carry a greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Many urban restaurants, grocery stores, and food producers are cutting back on waste by donating their leftover food to homeless shelters and food banks. Meanwhile, grocery retailers are increasingly redesigning their business models to reduce food waste, going so far as developing zero-waste stores and recipe-based food delivery services.
Energy Efficient Housewares
Green business trends toward energy efficiency are affecting the residential marketplace, particularly with home renovations and the choices homeowners make for a home remodel. Construction companies and providers of home services are offering eco-friendly options that homeowners prefer. Common examples of these popular eco-friendly products include new appliances with high Energy Star ratings, tankless water heaters, solar paneling, and insulated windows or window film. Many construction firms are also incorporating green business trends in their building and sourcing methods, such as using reclaimed or recycled materials for a variety of home renovation applications, instead of brand-new materials and fixtures.
Tech companies and corporate businesses can do a lot to reduce their carbon footprint, beyond simply adding a recycling bin and encouraging employees and customers to go paperless. Computers and other electronic devices use up a lot of energy, especially when they are left on after-hours and when moving screen-savers are running. Office-based businesses can easily implement a ‘greener’ approach with a policy of turning off the default screen-saver triggers, and asking employees to turn their computers and electronics off at the end of each day. For companies with the budget to replace older machines, energy-efficient electronics with high Energy Star ratings or EPEAT marks are available. Another popular employment benefit for technology and media industries in particular, is to allow or encourage telecommuting. This is also a green business trend, since commuting carries a significant carbon footprint for the employee, and employers spend more in energy and financial costs with larger office spaces.
Marketing and advertising is a cornerstone of virtually any business. Eco-friendly advertising trends and methods are becoming more popular. For example, some companies are choosing to advertise on new billboards that showcase the business while providing an ecological benefit, such as purifying the air or hosting an urban garden. Businesses are also reducing their use of paper products, while saving lots of money in printing costs by focusing more on digital marketing and online advertising avenues.
Moving forward, green business trends are expected to continue to develop with a focus on carbon recycling, green infrastructure, microgrids, the circular economy, and the B-to-B sharing economy, according to a 2016 report from GreenBiz. Progressively, these elements of eco-friendly business practices are becoming more of an opportunity for reducing risks and increasing revenue — opening the door for mainstream investors to finance sustainable business growth.