Going green makes sense and cents

The man on the street seems to be more aware of environmental issues even if their awareness is skewed, sometimes dramatically and not entirely accurately, by Hollywood’s movies like Roland Emmerich’s “The Day After Tomorrow” and James Cameron’s “Avatar”.

But one thing is evident – more people are aware and taking part in recycling projects by various organisations partly because of the incentives handed out in return for participation. An example of this in Singapore is the offer by corporate companies partnering the town councils to give away vouchers exchangeable for rice and other food staples for a certain weight of recyclable items contributed by residents in certain Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates as part of their environmental projects.

At the ground level, we are seeing businesses which are beginning to see the value of being green as a competitive tool to differentiate themselves from the crowd. This situation is nowhere more apparent than in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are usually part of an entire business value chain where suppliers like themselves are aplenty.

Being green puts them in the preferred supplier list of many bigger corporations who themselves adopt eco-friendly and sustainable practices and expect their suppliers to do the same. Even just looking at green practices from the bigger boys’ perspective is sufficient impetus for SMEs to go green.

Will Lenovo or Fujitsu work with suppliers who do not have green manufacturing practices, and risk losing credibility over their claims that their manufacturing supply chain is environmentally-friendly?

From a macro perspective, we see signs of acknowledgement by countries as they devote more financial, human and political resources into green research and development, or embark on exploration for cleaner and more sustainable energy sources and transportation.

Michael Mandelbaum, a professor of American Foreign Policy at John Hopkins University, suggests that “no single measure would do more to reduce global oil consumption than a sharp increase in the tax on petrol in the country that consumes more of it than any other – the US. If Americans had to pay more for petrol, they would use less of it. With a high petrol price, alternative forms of transportation such as electrically-powered vehicles would become commercially viable.”

Even if the green movement is gaining momentum in the world because of how it affects the pocket, it is a welcome sign for the environment and a step towards positive change.

Howard Shaw is Executive Director of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC).

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