The long held idea that business and the environment are not compatible is fast becoming obsolete, especially in the developed world where governments and green institutions have put the business community to task by supporting and promoting environmentally friendly policies and ensuring their enforcement.
Fortunately, corporate business entities are increasingly buying into the idea of supporting green initiatives all over the world whether as part of their social corporate responsibility or because the environmental issues addressed are directly affecting their business interests. However, the motivation for funds directed by the corporate companies may vary with reports of big companies buying – out environmental groups .Household names in conservation have been implicated in scandalous schemes supposedly receiving cash from known polluters in exchange of praise and “Green” Awards. This is most unfortunate. However, as the case may be these two “conflicting “have no choice but to coexist and interact mutually given the realities of the day.
This is not to state that the relationship between business and conservation has not been in existence ofcourse it has been but the relationship is becoming more explicit with time. Actually, it has become common knowledge and those who are not convinced of this reality are either living in another world or are living in an extreme state of denial. For instance, businesses not only exploit natural resources such as timber, fish, and water, but also benefit from ‘ecosystem services’ that seem less obvious but support fundamental economic processes and range from waste water treatment by wetlands to pollination of crops by insects.
At the same time, numerous studies have been done to try and find less remote links and marry economics and nature conservation. Consequently, interesting results are being realized culminating to such concepts as ‘environmental economic valuation’ which seeks to assign monetary value to environmental goods and services that have a significant bearing on mainstream economic activities. The concept factors in various facets of economics and the environment, the details are intriguing but may be a subject for another day. Technical issues aside, this process helps in policy making and hence aids in sound decision making that is not only ecofriendly but make business sense.On the local scene the process helped avert a then impending economic and ecological disaster in the Tana Delta when potential losses (economic & ecological) of $59 million outweighed proposed sugarcane irrigation project’s projected benefits of $19 million.
A practical way in which business is embracing environmental conservation is supporting conservation initiatives. Companies like Toyota which is the fastest-growing and most profitable automaker in the world by making fuel efficiency and environmental consciousness as core to its business (State of the World 2008: Innovations for a Sustainable Economy) is a classic example. The company has a funding programme through the Toyota Foundation that funds conservation and community initiatives worldwide to the tune of ¥463,000,000 or KSh 488654236.12 (in 2010) per year.
Furthermore, the world is fast moving towards adopting green technology, clean energy in the forms of wind, solar power and the use of biofuels. Though these are not well developed yet to industrial scale there is clear evidence that they are the next drivers of global economy at least in the long term. Clearly, this is a creative means to diversify business ventures and promote sustainability.
Mentioned above are various ways in which business and the environment complement each other but by no means all. The amount of resource allocation may be different depending on the size and capacity of businesses but local companies can and should follow the example set by larger companies as observed earlier.
It is however, encouraging to note the steps being made by a number of corporate business entities in Africa with special reference to Kenya in supporting environmental friendly initiatives. Without mentioning names some companies in Kenya have made impressive performance in as far as funding green projects is concerned. My take is that more still needs to be done, at the same time companies who are perennial destroyers of ecosystems in the name of business whether local or multinational should take a good look at their future and retrace their steps. This should be viewed against the background of waning financial support from several foundations from developed countries for the conservation of natural resources in developing countries.
To conclude, I would like to reiterate the concept that the environment is not the enemy of business and that it does not intend to be.Therefore,busisness should appreciate the crucial role played by conservation at least in so far as maintaining sustainable and continuous suppy of ecosystem services and raw materials for the very busisneses.