The event showcased a range of innovative tools and initiatives available for countries to advance their efforts to transition towards a sustainable economy, and Costa Rica’s efforts to leverage these opportunities.
The event showcased public-private initiatives to help MSMEs to convert traditional business models into green business models, and presented Costa Rica’s efforts to create a competitive advantage in the bioeconomy.
As part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade and Environment Week, Costa Rica held an event that convened public and private sector representatives to share experiences in implementing public policies and public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives aimed at facilitating the country’s sustainable economic recovery in a post-COVID-19 world and achieving mutual supportiveness between sustainable living and international trade.
The session showcased a range of innovative tools and initiatives available for countries to advance their efforts to transition towards a sustainable economy.
The event highlighted increased market demand for sustainability-oriented products and the state’s role in supporting its entrepreneurs and micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to take advantage of new export opportunities, either through public policies or through the implementation of targeted public-private initiatives. Panelists noted that Costa Rica aims to leverage these new opportunities to facilitate its economic recovery in a post-COVID-19 world in a sustainable manner, by generating economic, environmental, and social value.
The session showcased specific public-private initiatives touted as effective in supporting MSMEs in leveraging new market opportunities. For example, initiatives like the Green Growth Program and Descubre focus their efforts on supporting MSMEs to convert traditional business models into green business models, so that they can be transformed into “green companies.” They do so by facilitating access to seed financing and through technical support that encompasses business know-how and market intelligence, identifying product differentiation, integrating export and value chains, and upgrading opportunities, as well as providing advice on transforming production methods to become more innovative, competitive, and environmentally efficient.
Participants noted that these initiatives have enabled many of the supported SMEs, including those from rural regions and those owned by women, to become environmentally efficient, competitive, and export-oriented.
The event also presented Costa Rica’s efforts to create a competitive advantage in the bio-based economy. The bioeconomy, panelists noted, is a relatively new concept in the sustainability production scene. It aims to substitute the use of finite resources and minerals with that of renewable biomass, for the production and trading of goods and services.
Speakers highlighted efforts undertaken in Costa Rica to promote the bioeconomy, including providing support in transitioning traditional farm practices to business models that leverage bio-molecular technology or waste optimization strategies. They recognized that business models relating to the bioeconomy are at present high-risk, with farmers unlikely to be willing or able to finance such efforts themselves, and highlighted that public policies and public-private financing can play a role in supporting such a transition. The payoff, they noted, will be generated in the form of a longer-term return on investment, as well as the creation of sophisticated companies delivering sophisticated products for the international market.
Further to such initiatives and innovations, select panelists emphasized the role of data, traceability systems, and the circular economy, as well as other features to further develop and leverage, for the purpose of tapping into sustainability-oriented market opportunities.
In concluding the session, Gloria Abraham, Ambassador of Costa Rica to the WTO, captured the range of ideas discussed during the session, which included “innovation and economic recovery, agricultural activities, value-added and sustainable practices, applied sciences, competitive insertion into economies, and efforts to reuse materials into added-value and contributing to a sustainable environment.” Abraham said Costa Rica will continue to play an active role in implementing and promoting such efforts. [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]