05 February 2007 00:00 [Source: ICB]
Pointing out the financial benefits of a greener outlook is beginning to pay off
DESPITE THE Communist party's firm grip on power, China's rulebook for business is often ignored or thrown out of the window by small- and medium-sized companies. One such regulation is the Cleaner Production Promotion Law introduced in 2002.
It should force all industries to implement systems that reduce pollution and improve production efficiency in a bid to minimise damage to the environment. But it has not worked. Realising the difficulties in implementing the law the state apparatus is trying to "gently" persuade executives of the economic benefits it can have - something businesses are more likely to take notice of.
So, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) and Dow Chemical are working on a programme to highlight the benefits of adopting the Cleaner Production Law - the US firm has donated CNY6m ($771,500, €596,800) to the programme.
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Using the China Eco-efficiency Research Center (CERC), a Beijing-based environmental consultancy, as project manager, 19 small- and medium-sized enterprises from the chemical, dyeing, electronics, paper, pharmaceutical, food and brewing industries were ordered by authorities to take part. The programme is up for review next year. "Quite a large number of enterprises are using obsolete technologies, and have high energy consumption and emissions," says Alex Chen, director of CERC.
That is why the programme has already yielded results, by encouraging companies to use cleaner energy and raw materials where possible, and to use more advanced production processes to control pollution and raise recycling rates, while improving management expertise. "I think most managers are aware of the environmental impact, but economics rule here," he says. "If we tie the financial cost saving to the environmental cause we have a much better chance of protecting the environment and making businesses more sustainable," he adds.
So far, the programme, which also involves local environmental protection bureaux, the Cleaner Production Center of Zhejiang Province and local company APBC Electronics, has saved CNY17.25m reduced wastewater by 338m m3 reduced solid waste by 487 tonnes saved 840,000kWh in electricity and cut steam usage by as much as 27,797 tonnes. "In China, there are between two to three million small- and medium-sized industrial companies, but only 5,000 to 10,000 that conduct a clean production audit as stipulated in the law," says Chen.
There is a long road ahead, but the programme is clearly making an impact, albeit on a small scale.
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