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Analysis

Joint Green Initiatives

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 14:39

“After NAFTA was signed, players in the Mexican construction sector found themselves in a rather difficult situation caused by the US’ misconception that Mexican companies were not willing to comply with the free trade agreement’s environmental requirements,” says Carlos Sandoval, President of the National Council of Green Industries (CONIECO). This perception led to the creation of the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA), which led certain companies to fear they might be shut down for non-compliance with environmental regulations. Sandoval says that while large companies had the legal resources to protect themselves, medium-sized companies came together under CONIECO, an umbrella organization comprised of entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, such as consultancies, construction firms, and environmental engineering firms. “We gathered companies from different sectors and came in contact with similar organizations in San Diego and Washington DC, which gave us support across NAFTA,” says Sandoval.

Members of CONIECO, all businesspeople, found that complying with environmental regulations had its economic benefits. They share a common concern for environmental issues and today, the organization works mainly with small and medium-sized companies, fostering their environmental awareness. To achieve this, CONIECO actively participates as a public sector advisor for all three government branches and international panels. The organization also seeks to improve Mexico’s economic well-being by pushing the environmental industry, which is most evident in The Green Expo, a landmark event on the Mexican energy and sustainability calendar. Although initially, companies joined CONIECO because they feared they might go out of business, today, even large firms relish environmental initiatives, like saving water and energy. These actions make companies more competitive while portraying a positive public image. In addition, market conditions are favorable for sustainable practices. “Mexican customers are starting to prefer competitively priced products when these are environmentally friendly. This is already common in other countries, and mediumsized companies are embracing this model,” explains Sandoval. “In fact, many medium-sized firms are becoming well-known for their low-cost sustainable products, which also help them establish contact with bigger companies that seek suppliers. These commercial chains, which have no government support, are influencing corporate decisions that help give Mexican companies a great international image.” Sandoval attributes this to the fact that medium-sized companies are run by people with higher education degrees, making the corporate culture reflect middle class values. The next challenge is for these companies to pass their knowledge and expertise on to smaller firms that might not still be entirely clear about sustainable models, the benefits these provide and how they could apply them.