globalEDGE Blog - By Tag: sustainable-development

Mitigating climate change and the shortage of natural resources require rapid and widespread development of renewable energy. As the demand for renewable energy has increased largely in the past 10 years, the number of renewable energy trade disputes is also rising. A number of countries have found that their feed-in-tariff (FIT) programs are at odds with the fair trade agreements in the international trade of renewable energy. Therefore, this post will introduce the impacts of trade barriers on the international trade of renewable energy.

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Singapore opened its first “green” factory two months ago setting up a milestone for Singapore’s green industry. The news brought great attention to a broader area—Asia, and people soon realized that most manufacturers in Asia have begun to turn “green” in recent years. This is becoming a trend in Asia that cannot be held back.

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Usually unrest in the Middle East translates into booming gas prices for American drivers, but so far the Syrian conflict has had little to no effect on US gas prices.  Slight increases, as of late, in average gas prices nationwide have been attributed to Labor Day weekend and its tendency to induce higher prices at the gas pump.  An increase in the number of fuel efficient cars on the road and a push for sustainable oil consumption are all contributing factors that have kept gas prices in check.

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Germany’s decision to slowly close its many nuclear power plants over the next decade was met with much support. Consequently, new plans for renewable energy sources started to accumulate, with the grandest, most expensive plan proceeding in the North Sea.  Germany’s ambitious plan is entitled Energiewende, or energy transition. This state-backed plan seeks to build fourteen gigawatts of wind turbines off the coast of the North Sea by the year 2023. These turbines alone will provide for roughly one tenth of the country’s energy needs.  The elaborate plan has met many issues, both financial and political, though. Will the turbines come to fruition in spite of its obstacles, or will this become just a giant waste of taxpayer money?

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The international trade of consumer products is a regular occurrence and nearly everyone in the world is aware of its role in the global economy. However, how many people are cognizant of the fact that cities use imported garbage from neighboring countries and turn this waste into energy? I am guessing that not many people have heard of this phenomenon. This is exactly what is happening in the city of Oslo, located in southern Norway.

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By 2030, demand for food, water, and energy is estimated to increase by approximately 50%.  Because of this, businesses that are currently implementing energy saving strategies will be far better off in the future than those who are not.  Fossil fuels are finite resources and as reserves of coal, gas, and oil run out, prices will climb rapidly.  The uncertainty of future supplies of fossil fuels and the growing popularity of “green energy” should incentivize businesses to adopt sustainable strategies. 

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The theory of a steady state economy and the end of economic growth as we know it has been discussed more frequently today as the world struggles to climb its way out of a recession. Whether or not this theory will become reality is up for debate. However, one specific aspect of this theory is certain. If economic growth continues to diminish and GDP growth rests motionless, the impact on international business will be profound. We will now look at some of the implications this reality would hold for international business, and we will also discuss possible solutions to the problems created by growth in our finite world.

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As the U.S. has just released that its GDP has grown only 0.1% in the 4th quarter of 2012 and that trend of low growth is persistent in every economic headline for seemingly every country, the question of whether this is a temporary phenomenon or the new reality is very relevant. Personally, I am of the opinion that this zero growth environment may be unavoidable.

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The way in which shipping is conducted can have huge implications for consumers and businesses around the world.   As talks of sustainability and green energy continue to dominate the energy sector, businesses are looking for ways to make shipping less harmful to the environment.  Hence, some companies have begun to ship their goods via sailing ships that use the wind as the source of energy. The organic and eco-friendly sector has jumped on this idea because the maritime industry is said to currently produce 3-5% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

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Alongside China’s growing assertiveness in foreign policy, businesses in China are also being more aggressive in their international business practices. Chinese businesses are increasingly using international acquisitions to expand their presence overseas in various countries such as Canada and the United States. Chinese firms have already acquired an American manufacturer of high-tech batteries and a major aircraft leasing business this past month. Overseas acquisitions by Chinese companies are expected to continue to increase as firms pursue companies in Canada including Nexen, a major Canadian energy company. Chinese acquisitions are changing the landscape of international business and may also be an indicator of China’s goal to be the world’s strongest economy.

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Lately, Iran has been under a lot of international fire because of its nuclear program and its questionable intent.  Iran claims that the goal of its nuclear program is to generate an alternative energy source, but American and European officials believe that Iran has plans to build nuclear weapons.  As a result, the United States and Europe have put sanctions on Iran’s oil and natural gas exports because they believe that this large source of revenue could be financing Iran’s nuclear program.  Sanctions, however, have not been applied to Iran’s renewable energy program, which happens to be the largest in the Middle East.  Iran is developing renewable energy sources to lessen its dependence on fossil fuels and in part to escape the sanctions that have been placed on its oil and natural gas industries.

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Water is a precious thing. But why? After all 75% of Earth is water. However, of this percent, only 3% is drinkable. And of this, 70% is found in the polar caps as ice. This means that of all the water on Earth, less than 1% of it is available for us to drink. That’s why we are constantly being reminded to save water. Global warming, increase in population and industrialization have all taken a toll on Earth’s water supply. But saving water is not the only thing we must do to protect it. We need to make sure that we don’t pollute it, nor let others pollute it. Aamir Khan, in his show Satyamev Jayate (with English subtitles), shares insight to the devastating water problem in India.

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As the United Nations’ Rio +20 Summit came to a close this past week there was a large disappointment in the solutions, or lack of solutions, accomplished. In 1992, when the Summit was first held, there was a sense of hope that a plan could be created to both develop and stabilize the economy while also protect the environment. This year the final document, titled “The Future We Want,” has been seen as weak because it failed to come closer to conclusions on how the world can deal with the connected problems of economy and environment. Rather than focusing on what was unsuccessful, the Summit did create more of an awareness of the issues and put out good ideas on the table. In order to really achieve the future we want, action taken by businesses is necessary.

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As the human population grows and environmental complexities become more widespread, social responsibility and the fight against climate change have become major issues for businesses across the globe. Many companies are beginning to implement sustainable business practices to combat climate change and mitigate harmful emissions. You may be wondering what businesses around the world are at the top of the list in developing environmentally friendly business operations. Look no further, because a United Kingdom research company has just released rankings that track how large global companies are mitigating climate change and creating clean technology solutions.

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With booming agricultural and mining industries, Latin America has seen economic and human development increase exponentially in the past decade.  While human capital and resources attracted foreign investors for a past few years, lately it has been the plentiful sunshine that catches the eyes of many venture capitalists.

Chile in particular has caught the “green” bug.  While imported fossil fuel accounts for more than 60% of the county’s electricity production, hydroelectric and solar power plants are in high demand by the Chilean government.  With the cost of solar power technology falling, Chile’s quest for affordable renewable energy is not too difficult to obtain.  A trade deal with the world’s leading solar power technology manufacturer, China, is in the works.

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As the world population continues to grow and urbanization increases, enormous amounts of energy will be consumed meaning expensive energy costs and waste management will remain major problems. Sustainable development is a solution to this problem. However, one particular region is experiencing urban population growth at an unprecedented rate and faces exceptional challenges in terms of sustainability. This region is Asia and its urban area population has already tripled over the last fifty years. Although Asia faces many tough challenges to sustainable development, these challenges also provide opportunities for global businesses.

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In an attempt to decrease its carbon footprint, China is asking its energy-intensive industries to reduce their energy consumption by a greater percentage than previously mandated.  These efforts by China are also a result of growing domestic and international pressure to decrease its reliance on fossil fuels.  Last year, China’s industries fell short of the government’s goals for lowering energy intensity and pollutant emissions, but the government is optimistic about firms meeting this year’s targets due to new and improved policies and controls.

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With concerns of a changing global climate, many countries around the world are looking for efficient energy sources designed to lower carbon emissions and combat global warming. One well-known energy project is harnessing the power of the wind with turbines to produce electricity. While many wind farms are built on land, offshore wind turbines are expected to grow rapidly as these climates are filled with constant driving winds. These offshore wind turbines hold great potential for the future of energy and new technology is changing the way wind farms operate.

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In many of the leading construction markets, the market for sustainable construction is expanding rapidly. This standard started in the mid 2000’s with the introduction of the LEED certification for buildings. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and was developed by the United States Green Building Council. This standard has started to transform the construction industry and is now taking off elsewhere in the world as well.

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While many countries depend on each other for the trade of goods and services, few would think countries could depend on each other for one of the most important resources on Earth—energy. A proposed electricity supergrid spanning across several European countries could mean not only improved power sources but also cleaner energy. Advocates of this energy plan suggest that a transnational supergrid could connect power sources like wind farms in Scotland and solar arrays in Spain to the many population centers scattered throughout Europe. The need for an expanded and upgraded power network in Europe is clear. However, the political, regulatory, and economic obstacles are formidable and will be tough to overcome.

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Sustainability is a huge topic in modern business, as corporations and environmental groups alike strive to create more sustainable methods of production.  For Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, sustainability has been a sticking point.  In the last three decades, plantations have expanded by over 2000 percent, and the total land area currently devoted to palm oil production is an estimated 7 million hectares.  Some corporations around the world are realizing the negative environmental effects of palm oil production and are choosing to begin using only palm oil that is considered sustainable.

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Recently, many governments have slowed their momentum as far as environmental regulations policy creation efforts are concerned. This means that it is up to major corporations around the world to be more proactive about going green. One motivation is to be recognized by businesses and consumers as a environmentally friendly company. Newsweek annually ranks global companies and recently released their World’s Greenest Companies Rankings for 2011. They take into account “actual environmental footprints, management (policies, programs, initiatives, controversies), and reporting practices of each big company.” Using these hard facts and ignoring the publicity and public relations efforts companies may have made gives the most accurate picture of how firms are actually doing environmentally.

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Over a decade of recurrent high energy prices has prompted Kenya to look beyond traditional energy sources.  The traditional energy supply line in Kenya is unstable and has been for many years, which has caused consistently high prices that will unlikely subside.  Green energy firms are emerging and have been largely successful thus far because of the increasing demand for alternative energy sources.

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The constant rise in fuel prices and the movement to cut fuel emissions are leading airline companies to develop biofuels.  This year alone, the world’s airlines will emit 650 million tons of carbon emissions in the process of burning over 200 million tons of fuel.  In recent years, the popularity of developing biofuels has increased and is now becoming more of a reality than a theory.

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Mining for gold has traditionally been viewed as a toxic business that harms the environment leaving mercury and other harsh chemicals in the atmosphere. However, this view is beginning to change as gold mining practices turn to fair trade. The new fair trade standards set social, environmental, and economic measures to eliminate child labor and minimize the use of toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide. The major goal of this movement is to avoid the negative impacts that mining causes in the environment while also aiming to help the millions of people who depend on the gold mining industry for employment.

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Are companies that have implemented carbon reducing practices performing better financially?  The recent release of the CDP Global 500 report by the Carbon Disclosure Project answers in the affirmative.  In fact, this report has revealed that the companies working to decrease their carbon emissions are outperforming those that have not begun this change.  These same companies are said to be performing better in the stock market as well.

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Germany is one of the world leaders in renewable energy. They currently receive 17% of their energy from alternative sources and have vowed to increase these levels to 35% in 2020 and 80% by 2050. Deutsche Bahn, the country’s major railroad company and largest energy user has just released plans to be completely carbon-free by 2050.

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Nowadays many companies are becoming more environmentally conscious and are looking for new business practices that support sustainability. A company called Neutral Fuels in the United Arab Emirates has developed an innovating process that promotes sustainable development while also generating a healthy profit. Neutral Fuels converts used vegetable and cooking oil from local fast food restaurants to biodiesel so that it can be used to fuel trucks. This waste conversion process has had a tremendous impact on the environment and oil production in the United Arab Emirates.

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With all the talk of the future growth of electric cars, many people might think that it will be as simple as plugging in their car next to the old refrigerator in their garage. Unfortunately, using a standard 120V outlet would take around 20 hours to charge a typical electric car. Most cars will require a 220V charging station that is connected directly to the home's circuit. Even with the shorter charging time, many batteries will only last between 25 and 100 miles. These short distances will require customers to charge their cars throughout the day and many companies are working to become the "go-to" method.

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In 2007, former president Oscar Arias announced Costa Rica’s goal to become the first developing country to go carbon-neutral in 14 years. At the time, that goal seemed to be very unlikely for such a small country with financial difficulties. However, over the past years Costa Rica has made significant strides in accomplishing their energy goal and has become one of the leading countries in environmental sustainability.

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Supply chains have received a lot of attention lately including being featured in globalEDGE’s April Newsletter on the emerging industry of Reverse Supply Chains. However, another important part of a product’s life cycle is end-of-life management. Historically consumers’ only choice was to throw unwanted products away and manufacturers could help the environment by reducing packaging or making it biodegradable. Many consumers are now being offered the opportunity to recycle and companies around the world have sprung up to offer products and services that create profit while helping municipalities and citizens "Go Green!"

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As the world’s population continues to grow and the problem of poverty remains, it is clear that we must continue to develop the world economy. However, many believe that this economic growth should not come at the cost of the environment that supports our lives. Recently, the United Nations released a report that estimated the cost of changing the world from an unsustainable economy to one that is both resource efficient and environmentally friendly.

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During the cold winter months, businesses use an enormous amount of energy to heat their working facilities. With soaring energy prices around the globe, businesses are looking for ways to save energy to reduce these high energy costs. A company in Sweden has found an exceptional way to do just this. Sweden’s creative approach to heating might just surprise you.

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Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, faces major environmental problems after years of rapid urbanization and business growth. Located in the desert south of the Persian Gulf, Dubai’s biggest challenge is providing fresh water to its residents. However, the city has many other problems including waste management and sewage treatment operations. Despite being situated on vast oil reserves, the region is also running low on energy sources to support its lifestyle. On top of these complications, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is preparing for a population boom this upcoming decade. Therefore, concepts of sustainability and environmental issues are becoming very important to businesses and citizens of Dubai.

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Restaurants providing local and organic foods are growing in popularity as worldwide consumers have responded favorably to sustainable options. Local foods are typically fresher, healthier, and have less of an impact on the environment. As this trend grows in popularity, the newest businesses to join the sustainable food bandwagon are actually in the Hospitality and Travel industry.

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Today we will look at a piece of technology which could have a substantial effect on the global business world. In this specific case, it’s how we power things. Now, windmill power has been talked about many times before, but this is the first time we’ve seen anything which combines the harnessing of the ocean with a windmill design. The AK-1000, recently released by Atlantis Resources Corporation in Scotland, could have a “revolutionary” effect on making renewable energy a viable replacement to fossil fuels.

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Ecotourism is considered the fastest growing market in the tourism industry. What is ecotourism? Defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), it is "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people."

Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. You must have a deep appreciation for local cultures around the globe, which is why I think it's so great. Along with this it provides direct financial benefits for conservation and the local economy and empowerment for local people. Can tourism really do this much?

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One of the major issues in today's international business climate is sustainability. Countries are ever-seeking new ways to operate in an evnrionmentally-friendly way, while at the same time saving money in the long run by coming off of a dependence on fossil fuels. The fastest-growing country in terms of economic growth and trade in the world is China. Due to China's current prevalence in the international business world, and its future impact, it is valuable to see what steps China is taking to go green.

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A recent report conducted by Community Food Enterprise, backed up by a number of case studies, highlights the importance that local businesses in the Food and Beverage Industry play in economic development. The report focuses on twenty-four food ventures from around the world, such as an organic farming co-op, as well as a caterer in Zambia. All of the enterprises examined in the report aim to become sustainable business models which are not dependent on government aid.

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I recently attended a Global Business Club luncheon in Lansing, Michigan. The main speaker was Andrew Mangan, the Executive Director of the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development. He talked about a plethora of topics surrounding sustainable development on a local stage and global stage. What is this sustainable development? It is a term most everyone has heard, but it holds many implications for the future. Simply put, for a business it means that it can thrive in the long term.

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Companies all over the world are feeling the pressure to make more efficient products and packaging. With the media picking up any story about ‘greener’ products, it also gives incentive for some free, very positive, publicity. Unfortunately this sounds much simpler than it actually is. Many companies have been working at this for years. Luckily, there has been some amazing progress.

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The Food and Beverage Industry is undergoing significant trend shifts, one of which is a move towards more environmentally-friendly packaging. Many customers are demanding less material waste in the supply chain area of the industry. Complicating matters in the international spectrum is the fact that every country has different regulations regarding what's acceptable and what isn't. The key, then, is to find forms of packaging which comply with more of these regulations and can ultimately make the supply chain aspect of the Food and Beverage Industry more streamlined. That’s where polyactic acid (PLA) comes into play.

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In the past decade "going green" has been a popular word among businesses. Many have changed a plethora of their methods to be more environmentally friendly. The business green movement has evolved from the global green movement in other areas.

Going green and being conscious of the environment is something that dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. In the middle of severe fuel shortages, they began building cities and houses with windows facing the sun in the wintertime to make use of solar energy. A more recent example is the idea of sustainable development, meeting human needs while preserving the environment. This idea emerged in a series of meetings during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1972, the UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment was the first great international meeting to address how human activities are harming the environment. However, action plans were not drawn until the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

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In a recent interview with Mitch Jackson, the senior director of environmental affairs and sustainability at FedEx, Doug Barry from the U.S. Commercial Service was told a few ways that companies can not only reduce their environmental footprint, but also increase the standards of living for all. I personally took quite a few things away from this interview. I learned the following:

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“Sustainable Development” has quickly become a term used by companies across the world to explain efforts addressing the use of natural resources.  Generally speaking, the concept describes how a company can increase its efficiency, thereby reducing its overall impact on mother earth.  The demand in the marketplace to solve energy-related issues is growing, based on recent changes in global governmental policy.

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For those of you not familiar with the concept of "heirloom sustainability," the basic idea is that producers should design quality, durable goods, that will last a long time and be passed down for generations. The approach is - in theory - a good way to reduce waste and eliminate the cheap products that end up in landfills.

For example, instead of buying hundreds of plastic pens, you could buy one quality pen and even be able to pass it down to your children. Of course, you'd have to make a big investment up front, but if you keep it for long enough, it would eventually - in theory - pay for itself.

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