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Green factories are breaking ground in Asia

| January 21, 2014

It’s no secret that more and more multinational corporations are setting up factories in Asia. The reasons are plentiful: lower cost of operation. Amply available workforce. Lower environmental standards…?

Hmm. That last one makes us uncomfortable. We’d like to think that corporations don’t select factory locations based on the corporation’s ability to “get away with” lower standards for environmental efficiency.

The truth? While many Asian countries don’t have rigorous environmental standards built into the law, there’s a burgeoning trend among corporations that choose to voluntarily build green factories in Asia.

green factory

Traditional factories use large amounts of energy and release harmful emissions. From Timothy J. Carroll.

Mike Ives, an international business writer for the New York Times, recently explored the trend. “Western multinationals — and in some cases, their Asian suppliers — have in the last five years started to build more environmentally sound factories in developing countries, green-building experts say.”

Why would corporations go to the expense and trouble of going green when they aren’t required to do so? Part of the impetus may be environmental altruism, but there’s another reason reflecting a different sort of green: money!

In 2010, Intel opened a $1 billion plant near Ho Chi Min City in Vietnam. They went to great lengths to build a green factory, which greatly surpasses local environmental regulations and boasts “the country’s largest operating solar array.” It is currently seeking official certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The complex’s general manager, Sherry Boger, says that this factory, along with Intel’s 1,500 other sustainability-focused projects worldwide, has “reduced its global energy bill by $111 million since 2008 as a result of $59 million worth of sustainability investments.”

That’s an impressive return on investment — and Intel isn’t the only company to have noticed the potential financial upside of green global investments. Colgate-Palmolive is making a concerted effort to build green factories, and they’re seeing significant savings in water and energy use in the seven factories they’ve to build around the world thus far.

intel supports green factories

Intel  built a green factory in Ho Chi Min City. From Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve been referring to the building of green factories in Asia as a “trend,” but that may be overselling it a bit. Progress is noticeable but slow. Ives reports that “The U.S. Green Building Council, a leading global certifier, reports that only about 300 manufacturing facilities in Asia are certified or waiting for certification through its rating tool, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED.”

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the overall number of manufacturing facilities throughout Asia. Still, it’s worth taking note. As facilities such as the Intel factory report cost savings as a result of sustainability investments, other corporations may be inspired to follow suit. There are so many factories in Asia that even inspiring a relatively small percentage of them to seek green certification would have massive environmental implications.

Here’s hoping it truly does become a trend. As we always say when it comes to going green, awareness is the first step!

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Category: Energy, Regulations

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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