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Green evolution

Green evolution

Bahamian businesses drive the change in approach to sustainable practices

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The Bahamas Investor Magazine
August 21, 2017
August 21, 2017
Shonalee Johnson

On a global scale, eco-friendly business models have evolved from simply being a trend to expected operating standards. Businesses in The Bahamas are now also seeing the immediate and long-term benefits of reducing impact on natural resources. Megaresort developers, corporate financial services firms, airport developments and The Bahamas’ chief energy supplier are all going green and boosting their bottom lines in the process.

Tourism is the leading economic driver for the island nation, directly employing some 35 per cent of the total population and contributing significantly to the local economy. With hotel properties and small resorts scattered throughout the island chain, the industry also has the most impact on the island environment and natural resources. Today, developers are incorporating green elements in the planning stages, from construction materials to energy-efficient operations systems.

Local environmental planner, Stacey Moultrie of Sev Consulting Group, works primarily with developers, producing environmental impact assessments services. Moultrie and her team have guided the environmental management at Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club and the adjacent marina in Great Guana Cay, the Abaco Port Projects, Albany Bahamas luxury resort community on New Providence and the $409.5 million Lynden Pindling International Airport redevelopment project.

“We look at how people can site their projects, design them and implement them with as little impact as possible on the environment,” says Moultrie. Each development demands particular environmental safeguards. With some, the primary consideration has been incorporating groundwater resources and determining how water moved through a project on completion. Assessments and implementation plans also consider whether wetlands or pine forests critical to the native ecosystem would be impacted by the project.

Once the construction phase is completed, simple changes, such as swapping out traditional packaging to biodegradable products or switching to LED lighting, allow companies to run more sustainable operations day to day. Although, there are no significant tax breaks in The Bahamas geared towards eco-friendly build outs, local companies are taking advantage of duty-free items or reduced import taxes on LED lighting, solar paneling, solar lighting, hybrid vehicles and electric cars to further their green credentials.

Going paperless
Beyond the building and construction sector, firms offering financial services, insurance and medical services are incorporating green technology such as data imaging and shredding to reduce their impact on the environment. Companies are recycling paper waste, such as when confidential files need to be discarded. Converting paper files to digital storage is also a growing way companies on island are using cloud technology to reduce paper consumption, while managing existing records.

Sunryse Information Management, based on New Providence, introduced the first mobile-paper shredding services to the local market in 2000. Today, in addition to storage, the full records management company uses imaging technology to collect, scan, catalogue and store thousands of hard and digital records. Clients range from banking, insurance, medical and financial services industries.

Outsourcing records management allows companies to streamline waste and reduce their overall environmental impact as business documents are processed through the complete life cycle from storage to destruction.

“Approximately 98 per cent of what we destroy through shredding is completely recycled. All of the paper documents, shredded into unrecognizable pieces reduce our clients’ risk of exposure,” Sunryse president Chris Sawyer explains. “We shred, bail and compact shredded paper documents and send them to international paper mills where they are recycled into tissue products.”

Each year, Sunryse ships more than 1.2 million lbs of processed paper accumulated from companies on New Providence to international recycling facilities.

Fuelling the nation
With the push towards green practices in business operations, legislation and government incentives are slowly catching up to the global community’s stance on eco-sustainability, reducing power consumption and development.

In 2013, the government of The Bahamas enacted the Electricity (Amendment) Act, to consider renewable energy systems geared towards reducing the country’s heavy dependence on costly and environmentally harmful fossil fuels to produce energy. Up to that point, using alternative energy such as solar panels and leaving the national power grid at Bahamas Power & Light (then Bahamas Electricity Corp) was illegal. Government considerations for future advancements in the sector range from solar panel generation to wind and ocean thermal energy conversion.

Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) is under a five-year management service agreement with US-based energy firm PowerSecure International. Plans are in progress to significantly impact the power generation output, minimize overall environmental impact and lower consumer costs.

Bharti Jones, safety and environment manager at BPL, heads the company’s environmental department. “With the technology advancement being where it is right now, meaning being on the low- end, we find ourselves in a position to have to fight, from a manual position, on green initiatives,” he says.

In an effort to manage efficiency with current systems and reduce overall impact, BPL has a robust scrap metal recycling programme. The company also routinely removes and replaces aging transformers, taking them off the system.

The partnership incorporates environmentally sustainable growth in the near future. “We have a lot of technological advancements that are in the pipeline right now that would significantly impact our output, especially from a green perspective,” she said.

Long term, considerations are being given to changing fuelling options to solar power generation where consumers can feedback into the main power grid.

Globally, power plants are investing in more energy-efficient equipment and moving away from fossil fuels. BPL plans to move to more green and sustainable energy distribution options to decrease overall operating costs and reduce consumer power cost, while shifting to a greener business model.

Going green and being environmentally conscious helps businesses in the short and long term from a cost savings perspective. Financial institutions are also conducting environmental audits to evaluate a project’s level of sustainability and the impact of environmental factors on return on investment. Banks currently access risks relating to climate change when considering funding for projects.

As the push towards sustainability grows, progressive businesses in The Bahamas will continue to take steps to incorporate eco-friendly practices into their overall future growth strategy.

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