Green investments and products offer the promise of strong business and job opportunities in Asia and the Pacific, according to a report released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The report, Asian Environment Outlook (AEO) 2005, estimates the global market in 2005 for environmental goods and services to be about US$600bn, and projects this market will expand to more than US$800bn by 2015.

Out of this burgeoning market, Asia and the Pacific accounts for US$37bn. With a growth rate of 8-12% – the fastest in the world – the regional market is expected to triple to US$100bn by 2015.

“We now see that governments across our region – from India, to Thailand, to the People’s Republic of China – are increasingly ready to take on environmental challenges. Enforcement of pollution control laws is tightening, budgets for environmental protection are increasing, and judiciaries are taking tougher stances,” says Nessim Ahmad, director of ADB’s environment and social safeguards division.

“The improved environmental quality demanded by the public will require investment in wastewater treatment, solid waste management, sustainable public transport, and clean, renewable energy systems – all of which are critical to the economic and environmental future of the region.”

He adds that consumers are also demanding greener and more environment friendly products: “while not all firms will be able to benefit from the expected boom in environmental investments, most should have an opportunity to gain from environmentally-based product differentiation if they recognise this and act.”

Ahmad was presenting the key findings and conclusions of AEO 2005 during a keynote address at the 6th Asia-Pacific Roundtable for Sustainable Consumption and Production, in Melbourne.

Subtitled “Making Profits, Protecting our Planet: Corporate Responsibility for Environmental Performance in Asia and the Pacific ‘, the report is ADB’s second Asian Environment Outlook. The first, released in 2001, centered on the need to better integrate environmental considerations into economic and sectoral policies and programmes.

While there has been some progress in recent years, AEO 2005 argues that there is a critical missing ingredient in the pursuit of a sustainable future for Asia and the Pacific – that of a fully engaged private sector.

While governments determine the rules under which businesses act, the firms themselves use natural resources, make products, and generate pollution. A sustainable future for the region – and the rest of the planet – is not possible without greater corporate engagement and environmental responsibility.

“Industry, government, and communities must come together to collaboratively solve environmental problems,” Ahmad adds. “The key is for governments to give the private sector the incentive and flexibility to find low-cost ways to meet agreed environmental management objectives.”

Fortunately, the time is right for this transition to sustainability because market and social forces are creating new incentives for corporate attention to the environment, he points out. “We all have our roles to play in furthering this transition, and the time to act is now – so that a sustainable future for Asia and the Pacific may be secured.”