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Volume 6 Issue 01| January 2012


Original Forum

Readers' Forum
Life Beyond Forty: Challenges for the nation in coming times
--Ziauddin Choudhury

Keeping Democracy Alive

-- Interview with Prof Dr Rounaq Jahan

Duty of the State

---- Arafat Hosen Khan
Tipaimukh Dam and Indian Hydropolitics
-- Rashid Askari

Social Business: Turning Capitalism on its Head
-- Zaidi Sattar
What Does the European Sovereign Debt Crisis Mean for Us?
-- Nofel Wahid
Going Diasporic in One's Own Country
-- Rifat Munim

Photo Feature
The Maze of Metal

Green Business to Reduce Green House Gas

-- Isteak Ahammed

Durban Climate Conference:
LDCs Tryst with Destiny
--Quamrul Islam Chowdhury

Bangladesh Armed Forces: 40 Years on

-- Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury

The Missing Fifth Book

-- Jyoti Rahman
Maulana Bhashani: The Majloom Jononeta
-- M. Waheeduzzaman Manik


Forum Home

Green Business to Reduce Green House Gas

ISTEAK AHAMMED points to ways to reconcile prosperity with protecting the environment.

"Sustainability" and “going green” are buzzwords that many business owners from local to international, use when talking about how green their approach, manoeuvre or methods are. A green lens can help them to reduce costs, fight climate change, rethink long-held business practices and open doors to myriad of opportunities.

As climate-change models show, extreme weather and other environmental disruptions don't just affect the people, animal-plant and infrastructure in their path, they also have profound effects on businesses and economy. Bangladesh has become the worst victim of global climate change with the lowest carbon dioxide (CO2) emission of 0.3 ton per person per year, which is even lower than the average emission of 1.6 tons a year by other developing countries. The developed nations emit 15 to 20 tons of carbon a year (Data source: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC). Unfortunately, our country continues to pay a heavy price in respect of lives and property loss for faults committed by developed nations. For example, the 1998 flood inundated over two-thirds of Bangladesh and resulted in losses of 4-8% of the GDP (US$ 2 billion) while cyclone Sidr in 2007 resulted in damage and losses of 2.6% of the total GDP (US$ 1.7 billion), a report by the World Bank.

The main reason of climate change is increasing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG), especially carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. These gases are primarily emitted as a result of human behaviour, such as the burning of fossil fuels for industries, agricultural activities and deforestation, etc. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) proclaims that there is now little doubt that human-induced climate change is happening. At the same time, agriculture and industrial activities make our lives convenient and comfortable, and are also imperative for survival.

The contribution of the industry sector to Bangladesh's economy has been on the rise.

In FY1980-81, the contribution of the broad industry sector (manufacturing, mining and quarrying, construction, electricity and gas and water supply) to Bangladesh's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was17.31% which has increased to 29.93% in FY2009-10. And it is expected to reach 30.33% in FY 2010-11(Bangladesh Economic Review 2011, Bengali version). As envisaged in Vision 2021, this industrial sector will emerge as a dominant sector which will account for at least 40% of GDP and will generate 25% of the workforce.

According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, MES 2009, the crucial sector agriculture accounts for 20.29% of GDP in FY 2009-10. Besides, about 43.6% of the total labour forces of the country are engaged in the agriculture sector. As a result, there will be huge demand for energy sources in our day-to-day life as well as in industry, agriculture and service sectors. We need to generate a sustainable global economy and a secure clean energy future, but traditional activists can't do it alone. If runaway climate change continues, it will have a devastating impact not just on the environment, but on our economy and the business community as well -- that's why we need all hands on deck to move the planet in the right direction.

Today's business is all about Go Green. To be considered a green business, a company must use practices which are viewed as sustainable and environmentally friendly. These practices might include use of renewable energy in production process, tighter protections against emissions, and environmentally responsible sourcing of supplies, or final products not hazardous to the environment. Businesses can take a lead role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution by implementing actions that save money, improve productivity, protect the environment and secure the nation's energy requirement.

Sustainable climate strategies cannot be an add-on to business as usual; they must be integrated with a company's core business activities. The transition to the green economy is inevitable because of depleting natural resources, and increasing demand for environmentally sustainable products.

There are many ways to reduce the pace of greenhouse gas emission -- renewable energy, planting trees, green practices, etc. For instance, a factory may generate power from solar panels or use raw materials which can be recycled.

In the context of Bangladesh, renewable energy consists mainly of Bioenergy, solar energy and wind energy.

Solar energy
Solar power is probably one of the most known examples of renewable energy. Government direction to new residential or commercial unit to install solar power system for obtaining power connection will drive solar business. In remote areas, where the national grid does not reach, solar or renewable technology will be a remedy. Renewable energy projects in many developing countries have demonstrated that renewable energy can directly contribute to poverty alleviation by providing the energy needed for creating businesses and employment. According to IDCOL (the state-run Infrastructure Development Company Ltd), it has installed around 12 lakh Solar House Systems (SHS) till October this year. They also set a new target to cross 25 lakh by 2014. Around 20,000 workers, including 5,000 engineers, are now working in different companies under IDCOL, like Grameen Shakti and Rahimafrooz, etc. This sector is likely to provide green jobs to 1 lakh people by 2014. The global solar home system market is worth over $8 billion, the managing director of Rahimafrooz Renewable Energy Ltd has said in an interview with The Daily Star. The country can earn around $25 million in the next three years, if we can export at least 1 lakh SHS across off-grid areas globally, the MD added. Those green companies also developed solar irrigation pumps to replace the traditional ones that run on diesel.

Given the recent escalation of fuel prices, similar examples are likely to become more common.

Bioenergy can be produced from a variety of biomass feedstocks, including forest, agricultural and livestock residues, short-rotation forest plantations, energy crops, the organic component of municipal solid waste and other organic waste streams. The majority of the rural people of our country are still burning kerosene or wood for cooking, which harms environment. Biogas plants can meet the need as the plant does not need to use expensive kerosene or firewood for daily energy needs. A number of companies are doing well in setting up of biogas plants throughout the country. The country has a prospect to install around 20 lakh biogas plants because of availability of cow dung and favourable weather.

Wind energy
Wind energy is among the world's fastest-growing sources of energy. Wind power is an abundant, widely distributed energy resource that has zero fuel cost, zero emissions and zero water use. Based on last 16 years' wind speed records at 20m above the ground, assembled by the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, it was notified that average wind blows in areas like Chittagong, Dhaka, Jessore, Patenga and Thakurgaon were between 5.5 to 9.50 m/s almost throughout the year. Power experts said. “This speed has been proved as appropriate for setting up commercial and non-commercial level wind power plants”. Moreover, 12 other locations in Bangladesh were also identified as moderate wind energy generation sites, where use of non-commercial and households level wind turbines would have successful results. It will cost the industrial-commercial user/ retail business/ household a certain amount of investment money, but electricity bill will go down, the benefit that the energy will generate in time, and not to mention the publicity of "going green" will be a lot more.

There are many forms and examples of renewable energy available, but many are on the horizon and may have potential comparable to other renewable energy technologies, but still depend on attracting sufficient attention and research, development and demonstration. Ocean energy is one of them. So the Bay of Bengal may usher new light in the region.

The UN has declared 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for all. The goal of this initiative is to meet three objectives by 2030: ensuring universal access to modern energy services; doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. Let's start the brand new year with the goal of realising the UN's declaration. This sense of urgency is needed, especially in Bangladesh where only 30% of Bangladeshis have access to electricity, meaning the overwhelming majority still depend on kerosene and wood for meeting their daily energy needs. The government can't do it alone. To achieve this, the private sector should come forward. Providing electricity to the about 110 million who currently live without it, would be an apt step. Electricity means children can study at night, electric stoves can be used instead of pollution-emitting coal, and people can have access to a wider community through television or radio, and businesses functioning. We can do this without increasing global CO2 by even 1%. Therefore, adequate attention should be given to the alternative sources.

Green building potential in Bangladesh
Using demand projections based on reasonable growth rates in incomes and population, Bangladesh has tremendous potential for construction of Green Buildings. This will open up a plethora of opportunities for other manufacturing sectors like cement, steel, power, brick kiln, chemicals, etc., in Bangladesh and abroad.

Cement, steel, brick kiln industry are the main culprits of air pollution. But the sector can play an important role in mitigating the climate problem. They should use low-carbon technology and manufacture green products to make the most of green business. Currently, a number of green materials and equipment are available in our country. To name a few -- green roof, fly-ash cement, recycled aluminum, recycled steel, recycled tiles, bamboo based products, building controls, recycled wood, etc.

A little attention of the industries can do a lot in mitigating the climate change problem. Bangladesh's 1,700 textile dyeing, washing and finishing units could save up to $150 million and 125 billion litres of water a year if they adopt cleaner production measures (Source: The Daily Star). By doing this, they can turn into green industry which will attract more eco-conscious buyers.

Other "green" practices such as recycling also contribute to emissions reductions. Waste management is also of significant importance with focus on better management and reduction of solid waste, waste recovery, recycling and re-use of materials. Electricity and organic fertiliser are produced from waste in different countries. Bangladesh as a country with a large population is a good market for recycling business.

Businesses which still cannot find ways to go green may include simple energy efficiency initiatives, behavioural changes or process improvements. Examples include: turning down cooling or heating in company offices/factories and turning off lighting systems during non-working hours; using energy saving light-bulbs, and exercising austerity in decorating the business premises, such as shopping malls, with heavy lighting; reducing emissions from business travel by curtailing short-distance trips for internal meetings through providing employees with the latest telephone or video conferencing technology.

Funds spent on zero carbon technologies have far-reaching impacts not only for economic growth and development, but also on the quality of life, economic empowerment of rural communities and on a reduced pressure on the local ecosystems that are critical to human and ecological health. The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Durban surely proved disappointing to many. On the positive side, the COP17 took important steps towards the “Green Climate Fund”. World Bank also launched two new financial initiatives -- the Carbon Initiative for Development (Ci-Dev) and the BioCarbon Fund, to help the least-developed countries access financing for low-carbon investments and enable them to tap into carbon markets after 2012. This is a good time to scale up such initiatives. Government, development partners, NGOs, industry and academia should share their expertise and experience in coordination, prioritisation and utilisation of all green funds. Such funds will be the insurance against the unknown.

What makes Green Business so innovative is that not only is it environment friendly but also cost effective. People have awakened to nature's fragility and the finiteness of its resources. Their buying decisions are substantially influenced by environmental safety. A green seal or certification on products, or beside the business logo, will provide consumers with immediate recognition of brands as 'eco-friendly'. It will boost sales and attract potential affiliates to business.

In addition, it will become increasingly important for companies to have, and to be seen to have, environment friendly policies in order to be considered good corporate citizens. Great opportunities await companies or marketers who can create solutions that reconcile prosperity with environment protection.

Going green will make Bangladesh more competitive in the global economy, will create quality jobs, attract important new investments, create new business opportunities and improve our quality of life. Together, we have to fight for a cleaner, fairer future that the next generation deserves.

Isteak Ahammed is pursuing his MBA at the Department of Accounting and Information Systems, University of Dhaka.

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