THE European Commission (EC) has awarded a grant of close to one million Euros to support the greening of Cebu’s industries and help Cebu position itself as an important global player in the green markets of Europe and Asia.

The Smart (SMEs for environmental Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency) is a project that aims to increase the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in three sectors (furniture and furnishing; fashion accessories; gift, toys and houseware) by implementing and marketing cleaner production.

The project will focus on greening the supply chain, encouraging industries to practice cleaner production processes and use eco-friendly inputs, and the promotion of a safer working environment.

The project’s total budget of 1,223,482 Euros will be co-funded by the EC and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“We have tapped Cebu to pilot this project because Cebu is one of the fastest growing markets. Most of its industries rely so much on the overseas market, that is why we need to develop and help these industries gear towards producing eco-friendly products,” said Matthieu Penot, environment and sustainable development officer of the European Commission Delegation to the Philippines. He spoke during the launching of Smart Cebu Project at Cebu Parklane Hotel last Thursday.

The Smart Cebu project, which will run for three years beginning this year, will be undertaken by European and Philippine organizations led by SEQUA Germany.

Profitability

The project will be implemented in cooperation with the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP), Cebu Fashion Accessories Manufacturers and Exporters (Cebu FAME), Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation (CFIF), Cebu Gift Toys and Housewares (Cebu GTH), European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) and EFA Energy Efficiency Agency NRW.

Penot added the project will help businesses increase their profitability by allowing them to tap a new market.

Sabino Dapat, chairman of ECCP Cebu Council, said US market researchers have labeled this new market “Lohas” or “lifestyles of health and sustainability.” It is a market segment focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living and social justice.

In the US, Dapat added, this is an estimated $200-billion market with 41 million consumers. The green building market alone is estimated at $50 billion and the demand for green building materials is growing rapidly.

As of 2009, about 284 million square feet was certified by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Program.

Although he did not find the equivalent figures for the Lohas market in Europe, Dapat said that European buyers are known to be keen buyers of green products. “One estimate valued the European green market at $900 billion. However, this figure includes environmental technologies,” he said.

Green shoppers

He added that about 71 percent of the European population is concerned about the environment and 12 percent of European adults (approximately 30 million consumers) can be defined as green shoppers.

“The green movement represents the new mode of activism for this century, pushing sustainability in production and consumption forward, for the benefit of the current and especially future generations,” Dapat said.

To encourage more SMEs to participate, Octavio Peralta, ADFIAP secretary general, said they will encourage financial institutions to extend support and services to SMEs for this green advocacy.

Although the objectives of the project were described as “ambitious,” Thomas Ritter, project director of SEQUA, said the project is also timely, as green products are in demand.

Ritter added the team will focus on Cebu’s industries before expanding to other regions. “We will create a success story first and then later on, tap other regions, including other sectors in the industry,” he said.

About 450 SMEs will be tapped by Smart Cebu for this green project.