The FINANCIAL — Consideration of environmental aspects is crucial in any business development. Sustainable business development involves the application of sustainability principles to business operations.
The FINANCIAL — Consideration of environmental aspects is crucial in any business development. Sustainable business development involves the application of sustainability principles to business operations. Sustainability in this sense can mean a variety of things – ecological sustainability, social sustainability or even sustained economic growth. As such, the sustainable, environmentally friendly business movement is a component of the broader movement towards greater corporate social responsibility. The practice of businesses supporting environmental projects is not very common in Georgia, Khatuna Gogaladze, newly-appointed Minister of Environment Protection of Georgia, told The FINANCIAL.
Ms. Gogaladze was the ENVSEC National Coordinator in Georgia (Environment and Security Initiative administered by OSCE). Besides this position, she was also the Manager of the Aarhus Centre Georgia (OSCE Project). Ms. Gogaladze has worked at various positions at the Ministry of Environment Protection of Georgia. She has experience in the non-governmental sector as a project coordinator and as an independent expert in projects supported by different international organizations.
“The general situation is not satisfying. There are many cases when environmental aspects are not considered properly by the private sector,”. We encourage business to reduce their environmental impact. We don’t want to be a fining organization. Our goal is to ensure that the Georgian population has a clean environment. Business should have more long-term targets and not think only about short-term prospects. This is essential because some activities can otherwise bring about damage to the environment in the long run. Reducing environmental impact is a sensible approach to business that can have many benefits.”
Q. How would you assess companies’ activities in terms of environmental protection?
A. Currently, the practice of supporting environmental projects by the private sector is not widespread in Georgia. Still, some good examples exist. A number of studies have proved that strict environmental regulations do not put a significant burden over the businesses. Developed countries in the world have found ways to balance business development and environmental protection. We should apply international experience in this regard and promote sustainable development practices.
Q. How does the legislation fine companies who violate environmental protection laws?
A. Certain types of activities, which are defined by the law, need Environmental Impact Permit. It is obligatory for the company to meet the conditions of the permit. Companies which are not in compliance with environmental requirements are fined according to national legislation. The amount of the fine depends on the type of the offence and damage imposed to the environment.
Companies are often being fined for violating laws on environmental protection or/and relevant permits. There are also many complaints being made to the Ministry of Environment Protection of Georgia by residents about companies that are having a damaging effect on nature and society.
Q. Does the legislation cover incentives for companies which protect all environmental protection laws?
A. Issues of encouragement are less regulated by the law, but we have already started working on this aspect. It is still at the discussion stage. We plan to start with development of a list of “green companies” which apply environmentally sound technologies and are in line with required environmental standards. This list will be placed on the Ministry’s web-site and updated regularly. This may serve as a good message for private sector and encourage their environmentally friendly behaviour. Promotion of CSR standards is also very important for healthy cooperation of environment and business sectors.
Q. What are the main problems in terms of environmental protection in Georgia?
A. It’s difficult to single out one specific problem, as all of them are equally prevalent and interlinked. There are problems in every direction – waste management, water, air etc. All of them are connected to each other and require complex solutions. In light of climate change related processes, unsustainable forestry practices, illegal cutting, a number of infrastructural projects without an adequate planning etc. result in intensified disasters and people suffer from that. Therefore comprehensive approach should be applied and set of measures developed to address those problems.
Q. Which are the cleanest towns in Georgia and which the most polluted?
A. I actually can’t name a single clean town in Georgia. Each city has a different source of pollution. For example, Tbilisi is polluted by vehicle emissions, Zestaponi is contaminated by manganese dioxide, Batumi is not clean because of the huge constructions going on there, etc. Waste is a common problem througout Georgia. So, each city has a long way to go to be called a “clean city”. Efforts of all stakeholders should be joined to improve the situation.
Q. Do you consider creating bicycle lanes a viable way to reduce the amount of vehicle emissions in Georgia?
A. Bicycles are a very environmentally friendly means of transportation. This is a well-established practice in Europe. Due to its uneven landscapes, exept for its suburbs, Tbilisi is not ideal for bike lanes. Lanes have already been integrated in urban infrastructure in Batumi and Kutaisi. o the process of creating bike lanes has already started in the country.