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Despite what you might conclude from reading the news (and sometimes this blog), green energy companies can be eco-friendly and profitable.

The Economist reports:

A new study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) identifies 16 emerging-market firms that they say are turning eco-consciousness into a source of competitive advantage. These highly profitable companies (which the study dubs “the new sustainability champions”) are using greenery to reduce costs, motivate workers and forge relationships.

Many of these companies were not trying to “go green”. They were working with limited energy resources and developed new techniques for increasing production with what they had:

India’s Shree Cement, which has long suffered from water shortages, developed the world’s most water-efficient method for making cement, in part by using air-cooling rather than water-cooling. Manila Water, a utility in the Philippines, reduced the amount of water it was losing, through wastage and illegal tapping, from 63% in 1997 to 12% in 2010 by making water affordable for the poor. Broad Group, a Chinese maker of air conditioners, taps the waste heat from buildings to power its machines. Zhangzidao Fishery Group, a Chinese aquaculture company, recycles uneaten fish feed to fertilise crops.

Environmental sustainability won’t come from international treaties setting emission standards. It will come from lots of bottom up initiatives from families looking to save money on their energy consumption and from companies that find ways to reduce their energy consumption and provide their goods and services at lower prices than the competition.

The real heroes of the environmental movement aren’t celebrity hactivists protesting about pipelines in front of the White House. They are people working to improve video calling technology so fewer businesses will schedule as much travel, people developing software and management practices that make more companies more willing to let more of their workers spend more time telecommuting, and people figuring out how to replace water-cooling with air-cooling when making cement.

Via Meadia, 16 September 2011