The Green Industry is Only About Solar Panels and Wind Turbines?
When most people think of the word “green industry,” the first image to pop up in their minds is one of shining solar panels and wind turbines. When I ask the same question to elementary school-age kids, everyone in the class, without probing, would shout, “solar power and wind power!” They would take a blue crayon, draw solar panels on a rooftop within ten seconds and tell me this is what a sustainable future looks like. This is the future I would die for. But, wait a second, is the green industry only about solar panels and wind turbines?
It’s All About Carbon
If you ask this question to Green Like We Give A Damn, a green talent networking and professional development community in Taiwan, their answer would be more comprehensive than poetic. In the first half of 2016, this group of people enthusiastically engaged in discussions of business opportunities in a low-carbon economy. The achievements of the Paris Agreement on COP21 in the end of 2015 has given the world huge momentum for building low-carbon industries. As a responsible stakeholder, Taiwan also submitted the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) and set an aggressive target for emission reduction. In response to that, Legislative Yuan passed the Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction and Management Act, and programs and schemes are set up to deliver this goal. One of the schemes is the emissions trading system (ETS). Several months later, the Environmental Protection Administration announced plans to open carbon trading exchange within 5 years. Overnight, companies would discover that their operating costs has risen considerably, because the environmental costs, which used to be free of charge, has now become internal costs. The emission trading scheme is a tool to help lower the compliance cost of companies under regulation. This implies huge green business opportunities as companies try to mitigate the costs.
A Whole New Mindset for Asia-Pacific Countries
If green is the new black, why are green companies still not mainstream? Thomas Samuel Kuhn, a philosopher of science, has an answer. He found that the evolution of science is not emerging from the straightforward accumulation of facts, but rather from a set of changing intellectual circumstances and possibilities. It is called a paradigm shift, an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way. A paradigm shift takes time, which is why we find that change is often very nuanced in the beginning. In business, especially in giant corporations, the power of inertia makes them blind to nuance. Daring to look at things differently requires a whole new mindset. If people hold the conventional belief that business should always only pursue profit, is it possible that business can pursue multiple goals, just like humans have multiple emotions? While economic growth has come at the expense of the environment for more than two hundred years, is it possible to decouple carbon emissions from economic growth? We must change the way we think; change the way we do business. Globally, the surge in social enterprises, conscious capitalism, B Corp—all different names for the same paradigm shift—has inspired more and more young people to pursue different careers. This provides a solid foundation for green businesses. Many of them are entrepreneurs who are born to be green; the very first objective of their startup is to solve environmental issues, and their business model serves as the tool to meet the end result. Business can be a force for good.
Asia-Pacific countries have long adopted the American way: from production, to advertising and marketing, we often follow the Westerners’ trends. We need to learn from the West about what is good, what is right, and what should be done. We have become so dependent, and we forget that in our own cultures and traditions there has always been the concept of harmonious coexistence. We are resourceful, but lack the courage to face ourselves, our society, and the world. We only feel safe when we are in line with the West. It is time for us to take responsibility, take the leap to challenge the status quo, share the wisdom of our culture with the world, just as green entrepreneurs do.
Unleash the Potential of Green Talents in Green Economy
What we urgently need now is not another idea, but to unleash the potential of talents. We need talents with a holistic view, with a can-do attitude, and the willingness to take bold actions, these talents are called green talents. I love the idea that talent is an asset, but I really don’t see any bottom-up solutions in Taiwan, nor in China, Singapore, or India, especially when it comes to green talent cultivation. If we are going to make green industries in Asia-Pacific a major economic force in a green economy, we will need an army of green talents. It is those people who are going to transform the norm, and we had better start to incubate more and more of them.
In human history, we are the first generation to face such a pressing environmental crisis. Could we find our own answer?
This article is also published in Asia-Pacific Perspectives of Chinese Taipei Pacific Economic Cooperation Committee, CTPECC.