Corporate Environmentalism Seminar
On Wednesday, I attended a seminar on corporate environmentalism organised by the American chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka. All in all, it was fairly good with some great speakers, a couple of whom could perhaps have done better. One of my colleagues looked very pleased with himself that almost all the keynote speakers have been in our blog over the past few weeks. It maybe a sign of how extensive our coverage is, or it may also be a sign of just what a small country Sri Lanka is.
I would like to thank the Amcham for their efforts, it was a great eye opener for many of the business leaders present.
Before I heard the opening remarks by James Moore, the deputy chief of the U.S. embassy in Sri Lanka, I didn’t honestly think that you could be bored and cringe at the same time. Mr. Moore’s speech has proven that this is indeed possible. I guess he was just doing his job in praising George Bush’s current climate change policy. He quoted some of the “too little, too late” figures released by the White house.
Step 1 - Slow down emission rates and reduce America’s greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent through 2012. (18% of what? I’m still trying to find out…)
Step 2 - To stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. (Yes you read that correctly - stop the GROWTH, not CUT current emissions).
Step 3 - To reverse thereafter, so long as technology continues to advance.
Within this were a few gems about the concrete steps being taken:
- All newly constructed federal buildings will have stricter energy compliance resulting in carbon neutral federal buildings by 2030!!! (No wonder Fox News described this plan as “realistic”.)
- Commitment to ethanol from corn, (which has to share atleast some portion of the blame for the current food crisis.)
The next speaker was Anita Gupta, the head of Corporate communication for DHL Asia Pacific. Her presentation was good, but a little low in terms of actual figures. The transport industry is responsible for 14% of current global emissions. They generate huge amounts of packaging waste.
DHL bought a consulting firm in the UK to work on their sustainability drive. She couldn’t however give us any clear figures on what DHL’s footprint is and how they calculate their shipment emissions. I was impressed by the innovative services they had come up with. Especially the “Go green express“, a cabon neutral parcel service which provides carbon certificates for their customers.
We were then treated to a great presentation from MAS holdings on their new eco plant - Thurulie. Part of a new crop of eco apparel units coming up in Sri Lanka, I won’t go into the details as we will be shortly putting up a whole post on the factory. The essence of the presentation was that with the right leadership, it’s possible for companies to be at the forefront of sustainability, wherever they maybe.
We then had Prof. Mohan Munasinghe, whose short presentation contained some very strong statements on the role of corporates in addressing climate change. Prof. Munasinghe’s bases his ideas on sustainomics. A way of looking at and solving problems with economics (wealth), nature, and society together. His argument was that by taking a holistic view and by addressing the fundamental root causes, many of our current crises could be averted. He described the U.S. policy of converting corn into ethanol as an example of looking at problems by themselves. In 2005, there were economic (high oil prices) and public pressure on eco problems (carbon emissions) and corn based bio fuels were supposed to be the answer.
This supposed complete solution has in its own way played a part in the current food crisis because the social angle was not considered. There were a couple of digs at George Bush, which bought out a few laughs. He also described many of our current problems in Sri Lanka as a direct result of porr decision making by successive governments.
Finally we had Dr. Batagoda of the Sri Lanka Carbon Fund. He gave a short speech on the need for a carbon fund in Sri Lanka. Basically because of our relative size, most of our carbon projects are too limited in size to be cost effective and attractive enough in the world market. The government plans to enable and amalgamate many small projects and create a single selling point. I think that this is a great idea. The only worry is of course that there is a high risk of the whole project being scuppered by government inefficiency and incompetence. The mycarbonstash team will be meeting Dr Batagoda later this week. We hope to provide some impetus to the whole plan. We’ll keep you posted.
A good seminar, and while seriousness of the whole climate change issue was a little bit lost over discussions of types of carbon credits, I think it will be a soft wake up call at the very least to Sri Lankan corporates.