The advancement of Barbados as a green economy has long been advocated for, and was identified as one of the main goals coming out of the “National Strategic Plan 2006-2025”. In March 2012, the government of Barbados unveiled the “Green Economy Scoping Study” which is geared towards accelerating the country’s transition to a green economy. But what does the transition of Barbados to a green economy mean? Is it a goal limited merely to the application of measures relevant to our physical and built environment, our use of sustainable development techniques, investment in renewable energy resources and greater emphasis on conservation? Or is there, in an economy that is driven by services, a transformational role to be played by our services sectors?
In light of the global debates taking place on the green economy and the recently concluded United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, more commonly known as Rio+20 it must be positioned that the advancement of a green economy has at its core a new potential development engine which requires transformation of all our productive sectors, both as end products and as intermediate inputs. The change will engender a massive transformation of our economy and in the process create major new opportunities and niches for our service providers and other sectors.
While the evolution to a green economy will bring substantial benefits to our economy it will not be achieved against the previous development pillars which resulted in an over reliance on fossil fuels and the un-sustainable management of natural resources. As Barbados emerges from the largest global recession since the Great Depression it is important “that the policies enacted speak to a strong, sustainable and balance growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries”. The result of such a balanced framework and the transition to a “green economy” means increased revenue generation from the creation of jobs in new areas, the expansion of domestic product and service offerings and the creation of new “green” industrial and services sectors.
Enabling the transition of Barbados into a green economy will ultimately include the support of skills and services which are necessary in fostering such an economic transition. A skilled component workforce, and by extension services sector, is vital in rationalizing the opportunities that such an economy has to offer; it means the expansion and creation of new specialized service sectors and niche areas which are both domestically saleable and internationally exportable. These services include green financial and accounting professional services whose business skills will now be targeted around carbon and natural environment accounting, especially taking into account the opportunity for countries to benefit from carbon credits and other emerging environmental tax incentives. Services in the design and adoption of technologies which products and processes are geared towards increasing resource efficiency have already started to emerge. This specialized group of “green” agricultural, manufacturing and services technologists are swiftly growing as we move towards a more resource, energy efficient and more importantly environmentally friendly way of doing things
In a report published by the government of the United Kingdom, it was stated that the creation of new service clusters should focus inter alia on the skills acquired in the low carbon and environmental industries. In the Barbadian context such a focus on the acquisition of skills in these areas will result in the development of a skilled green workforce that is capable of supporting an emerging green service sector where specialized skills will be required to function effectively within the sphere of green economy. Altogether, the real economic impact of the green economy on the Barbados’ service sector can only be fully realized when we dissect the generic skills required in the use of resource efficiency and sustainability not only within the small medium sized and large service firms, but also when we begin to extract the potential “green” services implicit with the manufacturing and industrial sector.
The transition of Barbados to a green economy and the growth impact that it will have on Barbados’ services sector means that there is a critical role that government and business support organisations must play in the realization of such benefits from a green economy. The implementation of a range of policy tools and support mechanisms which are inclusive of fiscal measures, the adoption of an appropriate policy frameworks which speaks to regulation, public procurement of goods and services and financial incentives are all critical in creating an enabling environment that maximizes the opportunities that are to be gained from a green services sector.
The Barbados Coalition of Service Industries Inc. (BCSI) is launching a series of initiatives to bring service providers into the green economy by exposing them to new skills and techniques which will service initiatives in conservation of the physical and built environment. The BCSI-led initiative in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) continuous professional credential offers support for local and regional service providers in the building and construction sector to gain their ‘green building’ accreditation. LEED is designed to deliver a cadre of qualified professionals who can service the needs of the local green economy while simultaneously creating a pool of globally exportable skills which can generate foreign exchange and economic activity in a rapidly growing global market. Green business is a major commercial sector and creates employment, stimulates entrepreneurship, promotes the initiation of new manufacturing processes and products and generates foreign exchange. Barbados has a tremendous opportunity to create a new competitive advantage regionally by forging ahead with such initiatives. Already a leader in the sustainable development community, Barbados now stands poised, with more private sector oriented initiatives to take the lead in Green business regionally. Much of this is hinged on our collective ability to take a visionary approach to the potential growth of Barbados’ services sectors and their relationship to the wider productive sectors, in the transition to a green economy.
LEED, green building and related services represent only the first phase in a targeted business support strategy where accreditation aligned with green standards will allow for increased market access of professionals who now have the opportunity to export their services in this new tradable area to international markets such as Europe, Canada and the United States. Other business support organizations and government need to work more closely to identify additional practical measures. The possibilities are endless, and the kinds of business development green initiatives are infinite. There is certainly nothing that inhibits us from using our collective energies to build both a sustainable environment for successive generations that is consistent with the objectives of a green economy and simultaneously building the actual ‘economy’ to support it.