A Culture Yet to DevelopFri, 02/01/2019 - 16:36
Mexico’s Energy Reform has introduced a series of public policies and regulations that have shaped the industry into a system that promotes investment while ensuring projects are developed to the highest quality and safety standards. As international companies start facing the intricacies of the market, Juan Jiménez, Director General of DiTerra Consultores Ambientales, explains the benefits of reaching out to a local partner. “Companies do not necessarily understand all the elements they have to comply with to get permits approved, which is why it is critical for them to get in contact with firms like ours from the very beginning of a project,” he says. “It is not just about helping them make a safer long-term investment but also about helping them avoid extra costs due to delays or changes in project management due to a wrongly-designed project.”
DiTerra is a Mexican consultancy specialized in the study and mitigation of environmental impact, regulation and ecological restoration. It has worked on a variety of projects. Jiménez highlights the benefits of being environmentally responsible. “Helping the environment is not only necessary in terms of protecting the future of the planet and offering higher quality of life to future generations,” he says. “It also makes economic sense.”
For example, Jiménez says that many companies are reducing expenses related to potable water consumption by using treated water in their processes. “The economic benefits of complying with environmental guidelines are not only related to the use of fewer resources but also related to avoiding fines,” he says. “We know that some elements of the projects’ design may be completely obvious for us, while for our clients this may not be the case.” DiTerra offers a personalized service to its clients, accompanying them in the development of the entire project.
To date, many activities related to the care of the environment are mostly carried out for the benefit of a company’s image, Jiménez says. Now is the time to establish a stronger environmental education in Mexico, he says. “One project we worked on was a road project that was purported to be green and fully environmentally responsible. However, over the course of the project this vision was lost due to budgetary cutbacks, meaning the money assigned for the environmental aspects was insufficient for high-quality work.”
DiTerra took part in the tendering of the environmental works for the project and won. While the company did its best to push the project to the highest environmental standards, Jiménez admits the job was not easy and sometimes even frustrating. “The project developers were not really committed to the construction of a green project,” he says. “It became very frustrating that they completely changed the approach of the project to be developed and it ended up being very different from the initial plans.”
According to Jiménez, the lack of knowledge on how to approach environmental elements properly is rooted in the country’s education. “Mexican culture is used to complying with the regulatory framework only if an authority is monitoring the activities,” he says. “We are not yet at the same level as other developed countries where companies protect the environment on their own initiative.”
Some elements of the regulatory framework and its enforcement may be copied from best international practices but Jiménez says these aspects should always be adapted to the cultural, economic and social reality of Mexico. “We hope to reach the same levels of environmental protection that developed countries have in 20 years or so, but before that, every aspect of the local compliance and due diligence has to be monitored closely.”
This is also where society plays a vital role. “We, as society, have a commitment to demand that the government enforces strict compliance processes,” Jiménez says. In terms of the regulatory framework, Mexico is in an advanced stage, he adds. In fact, the country has one of the best environmental frameworks in Latin America, but for this framework to work properly he believes strict enforcement is needed.