CleanTech Shifts Environmental Sustainability into a Viable Business Opportunity
From the very beginning mankind has always used natural resources and other products to sustain and enhance life. We are taught early in life that the evolution of man began with the nomadic hunter-gatherer cultures of the Stone Age and was quickly followed by the harnessing of fire and the domestication of animals and plants. These developments are credited for the rise of sedentary human civilization and its socio-economic and political dynamics.
Politics is defined here as the science of, ‘who gets what, when and how of available resources,’ while economics is explained as the study dedicated to how society manages its scarce resources. In the course of time, man discovered minerals such as bronze and iron which ushered in what is known as the Iron Age and its development of more refined arts and crafts, more robust tools, increasingly lethal weapons and hard-wearing, titanic and speedy vessels which furthered travel and greater harvest of the world’s resources.
The Iron Age culminated in advanced draught animal, wind, water and steam powered mechanization. However it was the development of the internal-combustion engine in the 19th century that spurred the onset of the Industrial Revolution. The internal-combustion engine proved to be efficient and effective but its insatiable appetite for fossil fuels resulted in a surge in greenhouse gas emissions.
So while the rapid technological advances of the era increased productivity and bolstered agricultural yields which in turn increased the human population, it also marked the height of mankind’s frenzied consumption of the earth’s resources as he amassed more resources and wealth, built bigger and more complex gadgets, infrastructure and empires. This is the era that saw a major shift from subsistence use of resources to mass production of goods and services which resulted in surpluses and aided trade.
It is widely believed that the commercial production of goods and services in this era gave rise to the fundamental economic problem that asserts that there is inherent scarcity in the world and that the world’s finite resources are insufficient to satisfy all human wants and needs. This is especially true today as the world population has surpassed the 7 billion inhabitant’s mark. (UNDP, 2013 Report)
In a world of finite resources and faced with an exploding human population, nation states engaged in a mad rush for the world’s resources and stampede to build bigger armies, seek more land and colonies, and amass greater wealth and global influence. It was only immediately after the Second World War and perhaps because of the devastating effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings that the world woke up to the devastation of its excesses and the colossal destruction of our natural resource stocks.
The unsuitable exploitation of the world’s resources has over time resulted in unimaginable harm to the environment and the current threat of global warming, climate change, deforestation, pollution, loss of biodiversity and the adverse impact on the natural environment from the burning of fossil fuels and other human-caused impact on earth systems resulting from resource use has hit home.
Beyond the environment threats this scenario poses, mankind has woken up to the realisation that our ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources underpin economies, societies and individual well-being. This awakening has prompted us to seek interventions at personal, community, national and global levels.
One of the major interventions has been achieved through giving focus to economic issues underlying the conservation of the world’s resources and ecosystems. This was accomplished through the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (1992) which came up with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). UNFCCC further produced the Conference of Parties (COP) which brought global focus to the increasing role of ‘greening’ (practices that are not harmful to the environment) in business. COP challenges governments to prioritise green industries in their growth plans with funding and incentives to support their development.
Proponents of the Green Economy urge governments to move environmental sustainability from the purview of risk and compliance into the mainstream as a source of business opportunity. They view, “the continually expanding market readiness for environmentally preferable goods and services, and the realisation that the transition to a low-carbon economy is inevitable. This is driven by increasing oil price volatility and peak oil concerns as well as by climate change and its effects being seen vividly around the world.”
In Botswana, government has set up Botswana Innovation Hub as one of the initiatives intended to put the country on a new growth trajectory thorough sustainable scientific, technological and indigenous knowledge-based business opportunities. The company has identified Energy and Environment as one of its focus sectors and adopted Clean Technology (CleanTech) in its efforts to develop long lasting and sustainable solutions that would ensure that the country could create sustainability into the future. Botswana Innovation Hub launched the CleanTech Centre on 28th November, 2013.
CleanTech is a generic term used to describe numerous ways of utilising technologies, methodologies and services to address environmental concerns and challenges by providing solutions for sustainable development. CleanTech takes a closer look at the serious environmental issues we are facing and the solutions that need to be put in pace to alleviate them. It includes a wide variety of environmental, social and economic activities in the fields of recycling, renewable energy and information technology.
CleanTech helps forward looking companies to see the need to switch to green technology as an opportunity and not a burden. These companies are taking steps to position themselves in the green space by offering products and services deepened with a shared commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability. Clean Tech allows business to be part of the solution and increase their profitability.
By Tigele Mokobi