San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Forum focuses on ‘green’ small businesses

From the print edition

Banco Nacional and the Fundación Centro de Gestión Tecnológica e Informática Industrial (Cegesti) hosted last week the first Green SME Forum, which drew about 500 representatives of the small and medium-sized businesses (SME) sector as well as international panelists.

The forum focused on training and exchange of best practices in sustainability and investments in environmental business practices for the SME sector, which, according to a statement released by Banco Nacional, accounts for some 98 percent of Costa Rican businesses.

“This forum offers a space for discussion about the transformation of markets, consumption tendencies and the investments in productive processes, with focuses on environmental sustainability and social responsibility,” said Banco Nacional General Manager Fernando Naranjo, who inaugurated the forum.

BN Development launched a new line of specialized financing designed to incentivize investment by SMEs in environmentally friendly business practices. The Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI) and German KFW Bank are collaborating on the project as well.

The BN Green SME program is expected to distribute some ₡2 billion ($4 million) of Banco Nacional’s own cash in its first year of operation. The program, according to a Banco Nacional statement, will promote investments in the prevention, control, mitigation and compensation for environmental effects of businesses receiving the financing and to promote “environmental best practices” in the SME sector.

The CABEI website indicates that, “the initiative manages reimbursable and non-reimbursable resources through [intermediate financial institutions] in Central America, for the development of small energy-efficiency projects and renewable energy.”

Attendees took in seminars presented by experts on topics such as “Environment and Competitiveness” and “Responsible Investments” led by Banco Nacional officials and other experts. 

“Facing new market tendencies,” said Naranjo, “we don’t want our SMEs to fall behind. And while it is clear that they should also be competitive, businesses should be sustainable.”

Sylvia Aguilar, a consultant at Cegesti, said the organization works with an average of 150 Central American and Caribbean SMEs each year offering training and consulting on sustainability.

“We collaborate with companies, increasing their environmental performance through efficient use of resources and pollution prevention,” Aguilar said. “Our approach is to create capabilities in people, so that they can identify opportunities for environmental improvement in a proactive way and also obtain environmental, organizational and economic benefits.”

Of some 35 SMEs across Central America and the Caribbean that have recently received training and consulting through Cegesti, most have seen savings between 5–75 percent on primary materials and up to 50 percent reductions in annual chemical usage.

Aguilar said some of the businesses reduced by 46 percent their annual solid waste generation and racked up significant savings in energy bills, fuel use and water consumption. Along with input from Cegesti, Aguilar added, companies also received financial help for sustainability projects from national governments.

Since 2000, more than 1,100 SMEs have received Cegesti training and consulting.

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