It is now widely known that the world is significantly under siege from a wide array of environmental challenges and the green economy paradigm is necessary to overcome challenges of sustainability that the world is facing today.
Green business is an enterprise functioning in a capacity where no negative impact is made on the local or global environment, the community and the economy.
A green business will also engage in forward-thinking policies for environmental concerns and policies affecting human rights.
Ranging from climate change, waste generation, hazardous chemicals and water pollution, businesses are confronted with choices and have a big role to play in stopping this decline in environmental quality.
Failure to respond may result in dire consequences.
Organisations are encouraged to adopt green industry measures and clean technologies in order to reduce their levels of pollution and also harness any business opportunities that may arise.
The change in weather patterns in recent years that has been experienced in Zimbabwe — prolonged droughts and floods — has resulted in a negative impact on the environment and has led to threats to human security.
There are various opportunities that exist in Zimbabwe on how a green economy can be achieved.
Industrial production processes need upgrading in terms of the production technologies towards efficient ones which minimise resource intensity such as that of energy intensity, water consumption and chemical consumption.
Companies can adopt industrial energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies such as solar energy.
Clean energy technologies and waste treatment technologies are key for any company that generates waste from its production process.
Due to the effects of climate change, companies are being urged to adopt low carbon emission technologies.
The use of chemicals in an environmentally sustainable manner is essential in order to avoid pollution as well saving costs in the procurement of the chemicals.
It is widely acknowledged that a green economy strategy can assist in mainstreaming green economy issues in various sectors of the economy.
Implementation of such a strategy becomes key to the success of initiatives.
A green economy should present opportunities for creating green jobs through employment in selected sectors such as installation of renewable energy, waste recycling and waste management, chemical management services and new renewable energy generating infrastructure.
Zimbabwe has already shown ability to shift towards a green economy through some of the policies that have been implemented including environmental management Acts, Climate Change Response Strategy, Climate Policy, and Energy Policy among others.
Several opportunities have been proven to arise from environmental stewardship.
Conquering global markets
The main passport of a 21st century business to trade internationally is a “green passport”. In other words, businesses that prevent pollution, conserve environmental resources, implement environmental standards and use renewable materials have a higher chance of getting business than those which do not consider sustainable development.
Zimbabwean companies must realise that there is need to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to coming up with environmental strategies for their organisations.
Compliance with environmental laws
Every country in the world provides guidance on how individuals and corporates should conduct themselves.
In this vein, it is clear that companies which embed environmental considerations in their own strategy have a better chance of meeting legal requirements thereby avoiding fines, closures and orders for ceasing operations.
Business leaders who have a long- term perspective and are forward looking should prioritise compliance of their operations in order to enhance long-term viability.
Preserving corporate image
The image of an organisation takes many years to build. However, the image can take a few moments to destroy and once battered, the reputation is very difficult to retrieve.
Poor performing organisations in the environmental space end up being considered negatively by society.
Over the years, there have been reports, for example, of companies which dispose of effluent in the middle of the night or present false information about carbon emissions.
Furthermore, certain organisations have dumped hazardous materials in water bodies.
For a moment these cases may seem to be hidden but when the truth comes out, it can be humiliating and negatively impact on the image of the organisation.
Organisations are encouraged to take sustainability seriously and hence come up with action plans and strategies to manage environmental issues such as water, effluent, dust, energy and other key environmental impacts.
Cost savings from environmental excellence
Global case studies exist of companies that have reduced their energy costs by over 50 percent, cut water bills, waste disposal costs and other process related costs due to environmental stewardship.
Environmental management at its core promotes savings of resources and this both saves the environment and also reduces raw material costs.
When environmental resources are saved, the effect is that the organisation is also going to save costs hence achieving the triple bottom line.
Business must strive to save costs wherever possible and through sound environmental management companies can achieve savings through low or no cost options.
Access to investment and capital
In order for organisations to grow they will need capital at some point.
It is very essential to note that most capital sources for big projects including infrastructure, industry and also small enterprise development are now tied to sustainability.
It is near impossible to get funding for development of infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, industrial development without considering the sustainability.
Better chances of project approvals
Project developers complain of project delays as they are constantly working towards very tight deadlines.
However, it is necessary for them to reflect and assess whether they have met the environmental requirements of the projects that they implement.
Amongst factors that can lead to project delays is ignoring Environmental Impact Assessment requirements or not implementing Environmental Management Systems (ISO 14001:2015) in places where these are a prerequisites for securing project approval. Often there is a reactive approach and fire-fighting at the last minute.
Sustainability is therefore the foundation of successful business development, growth and viability.