Eco-industry not about green wash – Dimas

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has dismissed arguments that doing business more sustainably hurts the wallet or that leading corporations with CSR policies are only trying to 'green wash' their activities.

Speaking to the British Chamber of Commerce in Brussels this week, the Commissioner said firms were not superficially signing up to environmental issues to score PR points, but were doing it to increase their profits.

“I am convinced that there is a real shift taking place in large sections of the business community who realise that that as the environmental pressures on our planet increase there will be a need for stricter environmental regulation,” he said.

“Instead of trying to fight the tides of change the real business leaders are recognising this as an opportunity.”

He said it was perfectly possible for businesses to be green and profitable at the same time and those most likely to succeed would be those who took this on board.

Energy and resource efficiency, and the reduction of waste, were all things which would clearly save a company money in the long run, the Commissioner pointed out, and the environmental technology sector itself had a huge potential in the EU – currently a world leader in the area.

Cleaner business meant less pollution, added Mr Dimas, and that too is good for the economy.

He said failing to tackle environmental concerns would also damage the economy, pointing to 14 billion Euro losses caused by ill health linked to air pollution in the EU every year.

“Expecting individual businesses to be moral or to care about the greater economic good is missing the point,” he said.

“The bottom line for companies is their own profit, so I would like to outline ways in which ambitious environmental standards can help increase profits.”

The Commissioner outlined eight ways industry could profit while helping to protect the environment which boiled down to innovation, savings through energy efficiency, improving their reputation, increasing staff motivation, being in a position to comply with new eco-legislation, meeting increased consumer demand for ethical products, meeting the requirements of public sector procurement policies and building a good relationship with regulators.

“The real reasons why the world’s top companies are going green is because it makes excellent business sense,” he said.

“And I am pleased that this is the case because it is the best guarantee that this is a trend that will last.”

Meanwhile, on a visit to China this week Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson showed a unified front on the green-is-good-for-business message, hinting that international trade agreements might need to be re-written to reduce the impact of climate change.

While not putting forward any solid proposals, he suggested there might be an argument for lower tariffs on ‘low impact’ goods which were either produced to high environmental standards or were super-efficient during their active life.

Governments might also need to change their procurement policies, said Mr Mandelson, and move on to a world where cost was no longer king and environmental concerns were also an important criteria.

Sam Bond

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