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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Sun, 4 Jan 98 14:22:05 CST
From: Mark Graffis <ab758@virgin.usvi.net>
Subject: Sustainability in Latin America becomes priority
Article: 24996

Sustainability in Latin America becomes priority

By Bjorn Stigson, Earth Times News Service, 2 January 1998

Latin America needs to be more competitive and productive in the global marketplace to foster economic growth. This growth is necessary to improve the livelihoods of the poor and to sustain growing populations. This growth must also manage the environment more efficiently.

These were part of the main messages during the first Latin American Conference on Sustainable Development and Competitiveness in late September 1997 in Brazil. The conference brought together business leaders, government officials and academics from over ten nations to discuss among other things regional integration, the role of government, and policy framework in the context of competitiveness and sustainable development. The event also enjoyed the presence of President Enrique Cardoso of Brazil and President Jos Mar a Figueres of Costa Rica, both of whom gave their solid support to the pursuit of sustainable development in the Americas.

The success of the Brasilia conference proved encouraging for the Latin American Chapter of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. With a membership of 329 companies, the Chapter allows business to speak with a unified voice towards sustainable development in the region. The objectives of the Latin American Chapter are the adoption of eco-efficiency for business, the promotion of economic growth, greater access to opportunities, and an upgrading of the environmental quality of societies.

Eco-efficiency underlies the activities of the Latin American Chapter. One important program is its Clearinghouse on Eco-efficiency for Business (CIEN), the product of a strategic alliance with the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM). CIEN supports member and non-member companies interested in implementing eco-efficiency in their business practices and draws upon resources and experience from the WBCSD network. Moreover, CIEN adapts eco-efficiency to Latin American realities.

By-product synergy is an eco-efficient approach that has gained greater acceptance in the pursuit of sustainable development. The BCSD-Gulf of Mexico has defined by-product synergy as the cooperation between diverse industries, agriculture, and communities that results in the profitable conversion of by-products and wastes to resources that promote sustainability. As one successful example of by-product synergy, the Texan steel mill Chaparral Steel now meets 40 % of its scrap steel needs by recycling the bodies of old automobiles in a car shredder facility. In addition, the company also recycles its own wastes and by-products into resources that can be utilized by other nearby industries.

Economies that make the most of their labor and natural resources and improve their environmental performance will be better poised to improve their competitiveness. These issues have been directly addressed by the Chapter in the southern cone region of Latin America. The Brazilian BCSD has made a proposal to create the Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development for Mercosur. Conceptual and technological backing has been received from Harvard University through the direct participation of Michael Porter while institutional support has been given by the WBCSD through Swiss industrialist Stephan Schmidheiny. The Center will support private sector initiatives that spur the competitive positioning of the region, promote infrastructure integration projects that increase competitive factors, and boost institutional reforms necessary to open market opportunities.

Through the better use of its resources, Latin American businesses can become more competitive and contribute to the economic and environmental well-being of the region. If the success of CIEN and the implementation of by-product synergy programs serve as any indication, we can be confident that a change towards sustainable development in the region is achievable.