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Profit Motives
Asian Factories Pick Low-Hanging Green Fruit

For companies in the West, going “green” is at least as much a PR move as it is an effort to help save the planet, but in the developing world, firms are making environmentally friendly decisions based on a more immediately practical concern: their bottom line. As the New York Times reports, factories in Asia are reducing their environmental impact for love of money, not Gaia:

In contrast with Western multinationals, whose target consumers value a green approach, most domestic manufacturers in Asia typically do not see palpable benefits in applying for independent certification, sustainability experts say. Some are building greener, however, or investing in efficiency retrofits as a way of reducing energy consumption or in response to pending government regulations.

As one Intel manager summed it up nicely, “It turns out, what’s good for the environment is also good for business.” That isn’t always the case, as overzealous policymakers across Europe are finding to their detriment. But increasing efficiencies is one of the best green options out there, for the simple fact that it’s motivated by the tried-and-true price imperative rather than some idealist vision of the way the world should be.

Here in the United States, we’ve continually increased the efficiency of our economy, producing greater economic output with less energy input. As we transition from an economy based on manufacturing things to one propelled by the manipulation of information, our environmental impact will continue to shrink. In the developing world, which now makes most of the world’s stuff, there’s ample room for streamlining processes.

Environmentalists often consider capitalism to be at odds with green goals, and in some cases this is true. But it is a much more effective way to get things done than some ascetic, back-to-the-farms green revolution. The West is actively proving that economies can grow sustainably; these factories in Asia demonstrate that the same approach can work in the developing world.

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  • TommyTwo

    “The West is actively proving that economies can grow sustainably”



  • qet

    Economies can grow so long as you do not offset growth numbers by an amount that is some function of unemployment and/or employment below a wage X. As far as Asia goes, to the extent that their “efficiency retrofits” are driven by the prospect of regulation, I fail to understand how that is necessarily a good thing in the capitalist/efficiency/cost-reduction sense. The same dynamic works here and would work even more if the greens had their way. They would love nothing more than to “encourage” retrofitting by the prospect of mountains of new regulations. The money saved can only be money that would taxed/fined away by the State under the regulations because if the retrofits were more efficient than the existing installations they would be implemented even absent the prospect of regulations, right?

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