A GREEN INDUSTRY FOR DEVELOPMENT
UNIDO, Department of Environment
What do you think of when you see or hear of something green?
If you know how to read Persian poetry, you might be familiar with the sky being described as green at times. If you happen to speak Japanese, you might have heard of the word “ao” which can mean green or blue – depending on the situation. The modern usage of the word does not seem to be less confusing or unambiguous.
In our Department, we often think about what green means to us and especially, what it means for an industry to be green. Sustainable Business Practices often refer to the triple bottom line. A framework consisting of a social, a financial and an environmental part. In our understanding, this is one of the guiding principles driving the green industry: Only a balance of all three counterparts can guarantee inclusive and sustainable industrial development which is still profitable. This means acting and advancing in an environmentally sustainable way while growing and advancing because of it.
In a time overshadowed by the risks of a climate and ecological crisis, decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth is key. When it comes to developing countries, our mission might sound like an impossible task: How to create economic growth and development in less fortunate areas while at the same time safeguarding the environment?
Through our green industry approach, however, we have shown that – against common belief – sustainable practice can directly link to economic prosperity, while at the same time not excluding the social realm. For example, less waste does not only mean less environmental damage but also less expenses in prior investments and less resources needed. In this understanding, green industry is the development agenda.
We invite you to read through some of our success stories below, which tell the story of increasing profit while saving resources:
What does this mean in practice?
INCLUSION FOR EVERYONE
A GREEN TRANSFORMATION
There are many ways to support industries in green endeavors. The UNIDO Department of Environment has a set of around 400 projects around the world working towards this goal. Their profiles are diverse: Some are enforced on a global, some on a national, business or personal level; some have a large impact that becomes visible through unfathomable numbers, the strength of others lies within their innovation potential and originality.
To make sure these practices are continued in the future, countries implemented multilateral environmental agreements. For example, the Montreal Protocol sets thresholds for Ozone-Depleting Substances like HCFCs by providing country-wide phase-out plans. Moreover, the Stockholm Convention sets rules on the limits of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and the Minamata Convention on levels of mercury that cannot be surpassed.
Those International environmental Treaties are helping industries in developing countries to get where they need to be: 340 million tons of CO2 equivalents were already saved under the Montreal Protocol. In the same year, 8,500 tons of persistent organic pollutants were eliminated, 35 environmental policies laws enacted, and new businesses and jobs created under the Stockholm Convention.
The green industry can also mean convincing companies to act more environmentally friendly without initially creating a framework they need to comply with. While this might sound like a conundrum to some, it is our vision to drive change from within by convincing local actors that certain practices can be good for the environment and the company. Take the Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector, which falls under our global Mercury program. It is supporting individual miners in accessing markets for responsible gold while at the same time moving to mercury-free mining and processing.
We have to make sure this approach includes everyone. An inclusive green industry focuses on advancing poverty eradication by providing new business possibilities, but also by teaching people how to transform current practices into ways of making more profit while at the same time safeguarding the environment to keep it a sustainable source of income for everyone.
The focus lies on local involvement, empowerment and gender equality: In 2018, a total of 4272 people participated in the environment department’s projects, 37% of them were women. 536 female and 973 male participants received financial support. Take the Kiamokama tea factory, which managed to save 60% of energy while increasing efficiency by 40%.
Industries can improve their resource productivity and environmental performance to become green. Steps may include redesigning products and processes with a circular economy approach, which would consist of learning how to efficiently use materials, energy and water, reducing their wastes and emissions, safely and responsibly managing chemicals, and phasing out of toxic substances and substituting fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.
The benefits are crystal clear: for each 1,4$ spent, 1 ton of CO2 equivalent emissions was avoided. Much of the work of UNIDO’s Montreal Protocol Division occurs in the refrigerator sector. To date, there have been 450 projects in 61 countries (UPDATE?). Take China an example: Since moving away from damaging CFCs and HCFCs and switching to isobutane and cyclobutane – climate-friendly, ozone-friendly and energy-efficient alternatives –around 16 billion kilowatt-hours of electric power were saved.
Taking existing structures and helping to move towards greener practices is a necessary and important step. However, the aim of creating new business models, products and management practices which are inherently green, is just as important.
The continuous application of preventive environmental strategies to processes, products and services to increase efficiency and reduce risks to humans and the environment are enforced through the RECP (Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production) network. Through this, a confectionery factory in Minsk has since found a way to reuse their wastewater for the production of a marmalade filling. The company was able to save over 61,000 $ per year while reusing 10% of their water.
GREEN INDUSTRY, GREEN FUTURE
The pillars of UNIDO’s mandate of inclusive and sustainable development are based on advancing economic competitiveness, creating shared prosperity and safeguarding the environment. For us, these three things do not stand separately. If we want a sustainable and economically viable future, we need to ensure our industry does not harm the environment. We can do this, by helping countries move to clean technologies and implement environmental agreements; by providing services and expertise to promote sustainable patterns of production; and by creating new, inclusive jobs and securing resource-efficient low-carbon growth at the same time. As for the definition of green, we decided to take its multifacetedness as an asset rather than an ambiguity.