Over the years, the government of Costa Rica has been focusing on various initiatives to protect the nation’s biodiversity. The use of three evidence-based plans such as the Bandera Azul Ecological Program, the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST), and the National Emergency Commission (NEC) has created a scenario that brings together businesses, individuals, and agencies to minimize the impacts of environmental degradation. Consequently, Costa Rica has emerged as a leader and promoter of sustainable practices. Although different companies in the United States have managed to come up with appropriate strategies to improve the level of sustainability such as green accounting, studies have indicated that there is a need for governments to develop powerful policies to deliver positive results. Using the case of Costa Rica, the argument presented in this paper is that the involvement of different stakeholders in the sustainability agenda is necessary if the world’s biodiversity is to be maintained.
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Costa Rica is one of the countries in Central America and borders Nicaragua and Panama. It has unique features such as favorable climatic conditions, diverse wildlife, and attractive landscapes. My visit to this country made it easier for me to learn more about the measures undertaken by different public companies, private businesses, and government agencies to protect the natural environment. This paper gives a detailed analysis of business and sustainability in Costa Rica. Some comparisons to different corporations in the US and across the world are also made in this document.
Overall Sustainability in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a country that boasts of numerous natural resources such as famous beaches, good climatic conditions, biodiversity, and volcanoes (Chang and Slaubaugh 4). San Jose, the country’s capital, has numerous artifacts and institutions that attract tourists from different parts of the world. A good example is the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. Its natural environment is associated with protected jungles, diverse wildlife, and sustainable ecosystems. Costa Rica has an average size of around 51,100 square kilometers. The census of 2011 revealed that the nation had a total population of around 4.3 million people (Flagg 298). However, some analysts have indicated that the number must have increased significantly within the past five years (Flagg 298). The government has been keen to put in place evidence-based measures and initiatives to protect the country’s natural resources, beaches, and wildlife. Such strategies explain why Costa Rica is currently a sustainable country.
Flagg acknowledges that Costa Rica is a leader in the field of sustainability (297). Several arguments and facts have been presented to support this fact. To begin with, this nation produces over 90 percent of its power from various renewable resources such as water and solar energy (Herriott 14). Secondly, most of its territories and regions are conserved and/or protected from external influences. Even though the nation is quite small, it still boasts of around 5 percent of the globe’s biodiversity. These positive gains have been catalyzed by most of the initiatives undertaken by the government through different ministries.
Studies have revealed that Costa Rica has to focus on appropriate strategies to become carbon-neutral by the year 2020 (Herriott 19). These measures are being taken seriously because the century was characterized by numerous unsustainable activities that reduced most of the country’s forests. For instance, its total forest cover stood at 75 percent in 1940. By the year 1988, it had reduced to less than 22 percent (Herriott 54). Chang and Slaubaugh believe strongly that the decision to convert woodlands into farms resulted in this significant change (4). From 1990, the government undertook a study that outlined some of the benefits of having healthy and sustainable ecosystems. Different policies were enacted to support the idea of conservation in different areas. These laws led to the establishment of game reserves and parks. Farmers were also encouraged to engage in sustainable practices and continue to use organic fertilizers.
Costa Rica’s leadership in sustainability is currently being supported by several programs. For instance, the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) is an initiative that guides businesses in the nation to implement long-term strategies to protect communities, cultural values, and surrounding environments (Chang and Slaubaugh 6). Companies are measured in terms of their relationships with their immediate environments and societies. Incentives are presented to ensure that more corporations come up with sustainable practices.
The Bandera Azul Ecological Program is the second strategy that is embraced by the government to guide communities in an attempt to keep their surrounding environments clean, healthy, and safe. Neighborhoods that record positive results are usually rewarded using what is known as a “blue flag” (Herriott 65). Some of the key areas targeted by this program include forests, streets, public roads, watersheds, and beaches. As a result, the country has managed to promote environmentally-friendly practices that are supported by many citizens.
The third program that maintains this country’s leadership in sustainable practices is the Payments for Environmental Services (PES). This objective behind this policy is to reward landowners who ensure that their lands are healthy, clean, and robust (Flagg 301). The program has informed evidence-based schemes such as forest management and conservation. Individuals and investors who embrace the best strategies receive payments from the relevant ministries (Chang and Slaubaugh 6). The strategy has continued to encourage different landowners to embrace sustainable practices.
Finally, the National Emergency Commission (NEC) was formed by the central government to implement powerful measures to respond to forest fires and other disasters that can affect the integrity of the natural environment. To achieve positive results, this agency raises risk awareness, provides funds, and educates members of the public to deal with potential threats (Herriott 91). It has been partnering with various communities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to come up with adequate training plans. The approach has empowered and guided many Costa Ricans to monitor potential threats and disasters.
Experts and government advisors in Costa Rica have argued that the above approaches have the potential to make the country carbon-neutral by the year 2020. This is the case because the measures work synergistically to reduce the number of greenhouse gases emitted from different sectors of the economy such as agriculture, mining, energy, and tourism (Wood 21). The involvement of different citizens, policymakers, corporations, and communities is something that has the potential to deliver sustainable results. It is, therefore, evident that this government has been keen to implement appropriate measures that bring on board different stakeholders in an attempt to achieve its goals.
Sustainability in the Business Sector
My visit to this Central American country revealed that many giant corporations and small businesses were on the frontline to support the idea of sustainability. To begin with, some of the visited companies such as Taco Joint, Puddle Fish, and Costa Rican Beer Factory had implemented adequate measures that conformed to the CST program (Mowforth and Munt 33). For example, the Costa Rican Beer Factory was promoting a wide range of sustainable practices such as proper treatment and disposal of wastewater. The corporation had also put in place adequate mechanisms to promote recycling.
The code of conduct put in place in companies such as Taco Joint and Free Trade Store guides stakeholders (including employees) to participate actively in sustainable practices. Workers who interacted directly with different members of the community were keen to engage in practices that safeguarded the natural environment (Chang and Slaubaugh 8). These companies were also observed to implement powerful campaigns that sensitized more people about the importance of recycling water, food, and wood (Wood 29). These initiatives explained why most of these corporations were being rewarded for their exceptional approaches to the issue of sustainability.
IBM/Doca is another corporation operating as a subsidiary in Costa Rica. This company was observed to combine its sustainable practices such as carbon reporting and green accounting with the CST program (Chang and Slaubaugh 7). The approach resulted in a powerful model that promoted sustainable practices such as the conservation of the natural environment and production of superior products (and services) that resonated with the goals of the central government (Chang and Slaubaugh 9). It also revises existing policies in an attempt to address emerging issues and ensure that more companies operating in the country were able to meet the outlined sustainability requirements.
PROCOMER/Dos Pinos, one of the leading companies operating locally, was seen as a pacesetter in the field of corporate sustainability. In an attempt to promote the idea of sustainability, this company had gone a step further to introduce powerful mechanisms that allowed workers to engage in sustainable practices and educate more people in the community about the benefits of living in healthy environments (Carroll et al. 54). The introduction of online-based shopping systems and technologies at the company was something aimed at minimizing its ecological footprint. Additionally, the leaders at the organization pursued several programs to plant trees and encourage more people to embrace practices such as recycling and reusing (Flagg 304). These strategies were observed to support the government’s sustainability agenda.
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Another important observation from this trip was that most of the above companies were taking the issue of recycling seriously. For example, most of the outlets owned by businesses such as PROCOMER/Dos Pinos and Free Trade Store encouraged their customers to come up with packaging materials in need to reduce the number of wastes capable of affecting the integrity of the environment. Different leaders in these companies introduced their followers to several sustainable practices such as conserving water, switching off lights, and using bicycles to their places of work. The firms were also educating different community members to maintain the integrity and cleanliness of their surrounding environments. These schemes echoed the ideas associated with the government’s Bandera Azul (Blue Flag) Ecological Program (Mowforth and Munt 37). Consequently, such approaches have delivered positive results within the past two decades.
During my visit, I decided to go a step further and sample some websites and journal articles in an attempt to learn more about the major practices embraced by smaller businesses in an attempt to support the government’s sustainability agenda. From such studies, it was revealed that many companies were engaging in activities such as planting trees, embracing the power of research and development (R&D) to produce sustainable products and services, and empowering more people to recycle various materials. Innovators were also keen to embrace the power of emerging technologies to come up with superior items and household goods that reduced every family’s ecological footprint.
Comparison with Different Corporations
In the United States, many multinational and domestic corporations have implemented diverse measures to pursue the idea of sustainability. Carroll et al. acknowledge that the desire to safeguard the natural environment is a force that continues to inform a wide range of business operations (23). Some researchers and environmentalists have indicated that American organizations that fail to make the concept of sustainability part of their business models have increased chances of becoming obsolete (Carroll et al. 54). Due to external forces emerging from potential consumers, stakeholders, and government agencies, companies such as Apple Incorporation, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks have managed to put in place appropriate measures to make their business operations friendly to the natural environment. For example, the Coca-Cola Company has developed powerful processes to obtain water from sustainable resources. It has also become sensitive to the problem of wastewater, thereby introducing new technologies to improve the way it recycles certain wastes (Flagg 307). This strategy has continued to increase the confidence of its customers.
Apple has been using a unique business model to minimize its impacts on the natural environment. For instance, the corporation has been promoting the idea of outsourcing to reduce wastes and its footprint on the natural environment (Wood 40). It also claims that its superior products are environmentally-friendly. It also encourages its customers to engage in a wide range of recycling programs that have the potential to deliver positive results. Additionally, green accounting practices have become part of the company in the recent past. This initiative has continued to increase the confidence of many customers and members of the society.
Companies such as Starbucks and Wal-Mart have been keen to educate their stakeholders about the importance of engaging in sustainable practices such as recycling containers. Different consumers have also benefited from diverse initiatives undertaken by these corporations that encourage them to plant trees, maintain the integrity of the surrounding ecosystems, and keep their environments clean (Carroll et al. 39). In the developing world, some companies have engaged in different programs that can result in sustainability. For example, Coca-Cola in South Africa has implemented evidence-based measures that can address the increasing level of deforestation and environmental degradation. The first strategy has been the identification of suppliers and business partners who can engage in positive practices (Wood 98). For example, logistical operations are pursued in such a way that the amount of carbon and greenhouse gases is reduced significantly. The company, in partnership with other stakeholders, educates members of the society about the importance of protecting the environment and recycling various materials.
Mowforth and Munt acknowledge that many companies across the globe have been encouraging their customers to focus on renewable sources of energy (22). For example, Samsung is known to support a wide range of strategies that can support the needs of its stakeholders. Since the corporation operates in many nations, it has been using R&D to come up with superior products and services that can maintain the integrity of the natural environment. The leaders at the company also embrace the idea of green accounting to minimize the dangers of global warming and environmental degradation (Wood 99). This analysis reveals that many corporations operating in the United States and other countries across the globe have implemented evidence-based measures in an attempt to support the idea of sustainability. Unfortunately, a lot needs to be done if such companies are to compete with their counterparts in Costa Rica if positive gains are to be recorded.
Lessons and Recommendations
The above comparative analysis has shown that Costa Rica is a small nation that has initiated far-reaching strategies that continue to make sustainability a critical concern for companies and citizens. From 1990, the central government realized that the best solution was to come up with powerful policies that could transform the situation and protect its forests. This understanding led to the implementation of powerful programs that sought to govern and dictate the operations and processes associated with different companies across the country (Kuzdas et al. 209). Different policies were put in place to ensure that more corporations (both multinational and national) embraced desirable practices.
The first outstanding lesson is that governments should use powerful policies if positive goals in this field are to be realized. It is also evident that laws should be designed in such a way that they encourage organizations to engage in positive practices instead of punishing them. Additionally, appropriate policies should focus on a wide range of areas such as ecosystems, natural environment, business operations, and personal behaviors to record positive results (Herriott 87). Governments across the globe should be keen to implement evidence-based policies and offer adequate support to their corporations.
Research should also be undertaken continuously to inform superior ideas and strategies that can result in leadership in this area. Citizens must also be educated about the importance of conserving the environment, recycling various materials, and maintaining the integrity of their surrounding ecosystems (Kuzdas et al. 212). These small but desirable practices can deliver positive results and address most of the challenges associated with the problem of environmental degradation.
The success of Costa Rica’s in the area of sustainability is attributable to powerful policies and programs that offer positive insights to business corporations, communities, and citizens. On top of that, the Costa Rican central government focuses on various improvements that have the potential to deliver positive results. Companies are rewarded for their exceptional undertakings and practices that have made this nation one of the most sustainable across the globe. Many corporations in different parts of the world such as in the United States have pursued diverse measures to deliver meaningful results. Unfortunately, most of the policies used by different governments have not been appropriate or reliable. This has been the case because many nations are grappling with the dangers of global warming. Towards the future, they need corporations and government agencies to come up with powerful programs that can result in synergistic efforts and take the idea of sustainability to the next level.
Carroll, Archie B., et al. Business & Society: Ethics, Sustainability & Stakeholder Management. Cengage Learning, 2017.
Chang, Otto H., and Michael D. Slaubaugh. “Sustainable Business Practices in the United States: A Survey on Implementation.” Journal of Management and Sustainability, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 1-11.
Flagg, Julia A. “Carbon Neutral by 2021: The Past and Present of Costa Rica’s Unusual Political Tradition.” Sustainability, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 296-309.
Herriott, Scott R. Metrics for Sustainable Business: Measures and Standards for the Assessment of Organizations. Routledge, 2016.
Kuzdas, Christopher, et al. “Sustainability Appraisal of Water Governance Regimes: The Case of Guanacaste, Costa Rica.” Environmental Management, vol. 54, no. 1, pp. 205-222.
Mowforth, Martin, and Ian Munt. Tourism and Sustainability: Development, Globalization and New Tourism in the Third World. 4th ed., Routledge, 2016.
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