Appropriate technology as a business opportunity IV

Community development activity has a strong tradition based on philanthropy and has often been the starting point for business sustainability in emerging markets. Companies have for some time recognized the need to ensure surrounding communities develop as a result of setting up a company’s operation, for example by the building of schools, hospitals, roads or water facilities.

On the other hand, environmental products & services are often part of a new business model, with the entire strategy based on environmental superiority going beyond just technology and encompassing the whole life cycle of the product (from raw material to disposal).There is a growing market for products and services that provide environmental benefits. It includes niche markets for environmental infrastructure and pollution abatement technologies, such as water supply, waste management, soil remediation, air and water pollution control, and other established environmental technologies. A distinct niche focuses on the growing demand for eco-efficiency, including industrial products and know-how which reduce the use of energy, water and other resources in production processes. There are also green niches of established industries that provide alternative ways of meeting market needs, such as renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and eco-tourism.

Analyzing environmental impacts throughout the life of products and services is recognized as increasingly important. Though much focus is placed on production processes, impacts that take place during the “use” and “disposal” phase can be very significant. Product stewardship, or embedding environmental principles in its products and/or services, can help reduce the overall impact of a product.

The focus of sustainability has shifted slowly from process improvements to products and services and this is likely to sharpen further as international efforts intensify to combat climate change and improve the impact of business on society. The development of environmental products and services by new businesses will present competition to existing suppliers which will also intensify activity in this area. Emerging markets are likely to continue to play an important role in the development of these markets.

Emerging markets have specific advantages over developed countries in building alternative product and service markets. For example, countries can leapfrog stages of technology in power, moving straight to off-grid renewable energy without ever having polluting power generation plants. Vast forests and concentrations of biodiversity represent natural capital not available in most developed countries, which may become valuable as carbon sinks or watershed protectors.

Cases described below presents the appropriate technology promotes the development of communities as well as provides benefits for business. Specific trends as environmental products and services are financially successful and even with a positive impact on image brand and reputation.

Natura, formed in 1969, sells cosmetics, personal hygiene products, perfumes and nutritional supplements throughout Latin America. Sales in 2001 were $630 million, an increase of 14% over the previous year. At the beginning of 2002 Natura employed 3,100 people directly, and had 286,000 sales consultants in Brazil.

The Natura Ekos line of hygiene and beauty products was launched in 2000, based on natural Brazilian flora extracted in a sustainable manner by local people. In partnership with Imaflora, a NGO which operates on FSC principles, Natura has also certified floral assets to guarantee that they are extracted in a sustainable manner.

Other environmental initiatives include supporting environmental restoration projects in the 650 hectare Fazenda Bulcão and of the Pomar project which promotes restoration of polluted areas on the banks of the Pinheiros River. Natura also partners with TV Culture, the public broadcasting station of São Paulo, on the Biodiversity Brazil project which includes production of documentaries and other programs about biodiversity in Brazil.

Solar Technologies in Nicaragua is a project lead by UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization). The project in Nicaragua includes the following components:
• Training of local experts for the design of solar panel projects
• Transfer of technologies and installation of the solar panels in service and industrial facilities
• Development of local capacity for the construction and assembling of solar panels for industrial applications

For example, a solar panel system was designed to respond to 77% of the hot water demand of a hotel in Nicaragua. (Total hotel demand: 30 MWh/year, it required 2x16 m2 collectors area). Another example is a solar panel system designed to respond to the heat requirement of a local industry from the food sector: used to heat several food products to a temperature up to 80°C (32 m2 collectors area for a capacity of 22.4 kWh).

New water pumps for farmers can play an important role in local or even international food value chains. The NGO “IDE” has developed a family of step-action foot pumps fro agricultural use, all can be manufactured locally from locally available metal and wood materials. Since 1985, 2 million have been installed worldwide. Different designs allow the use of different sources of water as rivers and groundwater. Another NGO “KickStart” has focused on developing appropriate technologies for African entrepreneurs that can be fully market driven, creating enterprises at every level of the value chain from manufacture to distribution, retailing and end use by farmers. Their line of pumps from treadle pump to more complex suction-pressure pumps are in wide use, mostly in East Africa.

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