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How we can shift to the green economy

A shift to green practices is not only ethical but could determine humanity’s future survival as well as the future of businesses.

Decades of development and civilisation have brought enormous progress and made life much more comfortable. But this is at the expense of the environment by sending the planet out of balance as resources get extracted with abandon to near exhaustion and waste released with little care.

Technological advancement has come along with air, land and sea pollution, harming humans and animals alike, alongside increased carbon emission that is stoking extreme weather events as a result of climate change.

Embracing environmentally-sound practices is, therefore, not only a responsible thing to do but also a survival strategy for the human race and by extension for business. The proverbial doomsday clock must be stopped from ticking.

To address this, it would require all hands-on deck – government, private sector, investors, and consumers – to consciously move the needle.

Through policies and laws, policymakers can point the population towards ecofriendly behaviour as far as production and consumption are concerned.

This could be through tax incentives for cleaner technologies such as renewable energy projects, electric transportation, cleaner cooking fuels and responsible industrial production, including recycling.

At the same time, the government could use sticks where carrots have failed to discourage environmentally-dirty economic activities. One way of going about this is by making such activities and end-products expensive through higher tax and fines.

Also, organisations and investors should create synergies with public institutions and lobby for friendly government policies that would enable them adopt greener operations.

Companies and investors on the other hand, have to play their part too. Organisations could, for instance, commit to a green procurement code, buying and using greener alternatives for both their capital and operating expenditures.

But this is not enough – they should go a step further to invest in research and development with the aim of raising the bar on responsible production.

On their part, investors should not only pump their cash in green ventures but should also support cleantech entrepreneurs and their startups.

This is the part where angel investors, venture capitalists, private equity firms, impact investment firms and development institutions are expected to pull their weight in helping tilt the scale towards a green economy.

Most companies in the region grapple with technical and funding gaps to support their green transition. The challenge is even bigger considering that the mechanisms fr transition to green are relatively new and many players are grappling in the dark and lack a complete picture of its viability.

It is for this reason that sustainability-inclined organisations have been using experts to help them figure out the path to the transition as well as plugging the gap when it comes to business case for sustainability.

Commercial banks have a role to play too in fuelling growth of green enterprises, by designing green financial products and opening their purse strings to eco-ventures.

For a bigger impact, there is need for partnerships between financial institutions and impact investment firms and enterprise support organisations (ESOs).

The ESOs will aim to de-risk the business on their transition to green. This will include start- ups where the entrepreneurs will be subjected to several vetting rounds and molded by business specialists, thereby increasing their chances of succeeding.

This should, therefore, give comfort to banks and other investors when doing due diligence before issuing them with financing.

Lastly, consumers can help create markets for better, cleaner alternative goods and services.

When you buy a fair-trade certified product or a sustainable product or service, even though it costs more than the traditional alternative, you’re endorsing more production of such green products and expanding markets for the companies producing them.

This will, in turn, enable the sustainable companies to enjoy economies of scale and expand their investment in sustainable production as well as research and development which hopefully will result to reduced process for sustainable alternatives.

And once the mass market is won over, there would be no turning back. As demonstrated, consumer power is an important cog in the green wheel.

It also important to note that a green movement, like with any major change, will come with major disruptions to jobs, incomes and mindsets.

Therefore, it is important that a just transition is put at the center of the whole process, ensuring no one is left behind socioeconomically or disadvantaged as a result of the changes.

In conclusion, no single actor can successfully pull all the levers of power alone in fostering a green shift. All hands need to be firmly on deck – governments, private sector, investors and consumers to ignite a green revolution.