The green economy — What it is and what it means to local business

2012-02-14 00:00

THE green economy is gaining momentum on a local level, bringing with it significant relevance for local businesses.

The concept is rapidly moving away from the realm of government­ proposals and policies and global events like COP17, towards a situation where local business owners begin to develop green fingers through a number of KZN events centred on green issues and sustainability.

Following our previous contributions to this column, which have promoted the principles of sustainability within the context of this making good business sense, we now provide some insights into what is being called the green economy.

There are essentially two components to the green economy with the first being that which we have previously addressed, for example, the greening of the economy or making business more sustainable.

The second is the focus of this contribution and that is the economic opportunities that are emerging as a result of this drive towards sustainability.

A collaboration of researchers from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), and Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (Tips) produced a comprehensive report in 2011 titled “Green Jobs: an estimate of the direct employment potential of a greening South African economy”.

In this report they suggest that there are four main areas within which the green economy is predicted to grow, namely:

• energy generation, which pertains to the generation of energy from sustainable, renewable and/or alternative sources with low or no carbon emissions;

• energy and resource efficiency, which captures, among others, initiatives aimed at reducing energy consumption through green buildings, solar-water heaters, industrial equipment and public transportation;

• emission and pollution mitigation, relating to the utilisation of techno-logies aimed at reducing the harmful emissions associated with highly polluting industries, including air- pollution control, electric vehicles, cleaner stoves, recycling, carbon capture and storage and water treatment; and

• natural resource management, which covers the sustainable management and restoration of natural resources, specifically water, soil and land, as well as the conservation and restoration of ecosystems.

To put this into context, and why the need for this focus on greening in South Africa, another recent publication­ from the Yale Centre for Environmental Law and Policy provided­ a global Environmental Performance Index for 2012 based on an assessment of environmental health and ecosystem vitality, and placed South Africa in the 10 worst performers out of 132 countries.

In addition to this their assessment also showed a negative trend in the index.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the opportunities inherent in the four growth areas listed here are predicted to generate a substantial number of jobs which can also be interpreted as an indication of the business opportunities related to the green economy.

The IDC, DBSA and Tips analysis predicted that in the short-term the green economy could generate almost 100 000 jobs, and in the medium­ and long-term 255 000 and 462 000 respectively.

There is broad acceptance of the significant role that the green economy can play as illustrated by President Zuma who, in his State of the Nation Address, made mention of the New Growth Path Framework that was launched in 2010 and which recognises the green economy­ as one of six job drivers.

He also mentioned the Green Economy Accord which was signed at South Africa’s national Parlia- ment­ on November 17, 2011 in Cape Town by government representatives, business representatives, organised labour and the community constituents, which includes commitments­ towards a greener economy for South Africa.

Picking up on the momentum that has been generated at a national level­, the Provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism are hosting an open “Green Economy Research: changing mind-sets through research” conference at the Durban ICC on February 23 and February 24.

Contact Philile Xaba­ at xabap@ or phone 033 264 2520 if you would like to attend­.

From April 27 to April 29 a Sustainable Living and Indigenous Plant (Slip) fair will be held at the cattle arena, Royal Showgrounds, Pietermaritzburg­ and will profile companies which can demonstrate a clear commitment to sustainability.

The fair will include a hard-hitting film festival and speaker platform.

Anyone with further questions about the fair  contact me at 083 235 8628. Businesses are encouraged to register to exhibit their sustainability initiatives, or to go and learn more about how sustainability can enhance efficiencies.


• Karen Zunckel is a partner at the Hilton-based Zunckel Eco-logical + Environmental Services and is an independent consultant to the Wilderness Foundation’s Green Leaf Environmental


This piece is the sixth in a series of articles that she is covering on corporate sustainability.

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