GREEN and GROWING.
Companies operating in the environmental sector face the same issues as those in other business sectors. Financing, research and development, production, and even compliance with increasingly stringent environmental standards are also concerns for environmental firms. Fortunately, resources are available to guide and support these companies in maintaining a high level of quality in their daily operations.
Resources at home
Enviro-Access is a Quebec-based, not-for-profit organization that offers support for the start-up and growth of companies developing environmental technologies that contribute to sustainable development. In fact, it is one of the three Canadian Environmental Technology Advancement Centres (CETAC) whose responsibilities are distributed geographically; the two other centres are the Ontario Centre for Environmental Technology Advancement (OCETA) and the Canadian Environmental Technology Advancement Corporation West (CETAC-West), located in Alberta.
The only environmental business services firm of its kind, Enviro-Access offers services ranging from strategic support to networking, and provides companies with access to technical, financial, legal and business consulting services.
Louis Barre, president of Mabarex in Saint-Laurent, credits the success of his projects to the support he has received from Enviro-Access in the past. Specializing in wastewater, sludge and waste treatment, the company has developed a unique technology specifically designed for paper mills. Barre says his firm received invaluable advice in their search for research and development funding.
Biothermica International Inc. of Montreal, a firm specializing in the treatment of waste, gases discharged by waste, and recyclable materials, tells the same story. In their case, Enviro-Access assisted the company m its acquisition of marketing tools to help it compete in its highly competitive sector, says Eric Lecouedic, an engineer and proposal supervisor.
Joliette, Que.-based Aqua Solution Technologies Inc. is another environmental technology firm that has benefited from Enviro-Access's expertise. The company developed a compact, heavy-duty, stand-alone module that is easy to install and which pumps, filters, chlorinates and distributes drinking water at a very low operating cost. "In four hours, it can produce enough water for a small town," Pierre-Felix Brisson says about his product, which was able to supply water to a town of 300 and a primary school of 600 students the day after a recent earthquake in El Salvador.
In one phone call, Enviro-Access provided the company with access to a range of support services for the development and commercialization of this drinking water supply technology. In addition, Enviro-Access conducted a market study focused on the development and applications of Acqua's products.
Enviro-Access has helped many small- to medium-sized environmental companies develop their technologies and bring them to market. The not-for-profit helped Montreal-based Enerkem, which specializes in the conversion of residues and biomass into energy, biofuels and by-products, with a gasification technology pre-feasibility study, market research, and with their quest for financing.
In another case, Enviro-Access worked with ESI Ecosystem International, out of Montreal, on preparing a business plan for the company, which specializes in clean and renewable energy. It also advised the company on its financial structure and various financing applications.
Trade shows create global opportunities
Environmental companies can also take advantage of the many events that are organized to help further business development and forge partnerships and strategic alliances between organizations from different countries. The large trade missions garner a lot of media attention, but some lesser-known trade shows such as Americana and Pollutec also represent substantial opportunities for environmental companies.
Americana, a biennial environmental technology tradeshow and conference organized by RESEAU Environment, includes a trade show, technical and scientific conferences, and an international business matchmaking forum.
Composts du Quebec Inc., of Saint-Henri, a leading specialist in composting, has attended the last two shows. "Competition in the environmental sector is stiff and always centres on the environmental, treatment and marketing issues relative to a product to be commercialized," says Denis Potvin, the company's technical services manager.
The conferences this year covered a range of themes including agri-environmental issues, climate change, drinking water, groundwater, municipal and industrial wastewater, environmental management, solid wastes, and contaminated sites, along with business opportunities and international financing.
Americana attracts business leaders and industrial managers, environmental consultants, investors, financiers, researchers and environmental protection leaders from across the globe. The primary partner behind this initiative is the Government of Canada's Climate Change Action Fund. The trade show enables Canadian companies to meet with potential foreign partners, and offer them their environmental products and services that are ripe for export.
Not only are the Canadian companies able to meet with foreign companies without having to travel abroad, but they also have the opportunity to target established partners or distributors from the countries in which they hope to market their product or technology. In addition, these companies are able to obtain the latest information on the target market or the specific field of expertise, hold discussions with representatives from international financial institutions, and even close a deal or form a strategic alliance.
The most recent show, held at Montreal's Palais des Congres in March, attracted 8,792 participants from 91 countries and featured 334 exhibitors, 402 booths and 10 pavilions. Among the participants, 32% worked in the drinking water and wastewater sector, 23% in solid waste and 18% in the air sector. The next Americana trade show is scheduled for 2003, again in Montreal.
Another event that brings companies together is the Enviro-Pro trade show, the largest environmental industry event held in Mexico every year. More than 4,000 participants attended the show in September 2000. One month later, in Lyon, France, Pollutec is held. This international trade show features environmental equipment, technologies and services, and is ideal for studying the European market, assessing their degree of technological advancement, and networking with potential business partners.
Business development efforts initiated by companies today are subject to the increasingly stringent environmental standards adopted by governments that wish to hold companies responsible for sustainable development. Companies are now called upon to transform their industrial processes to reduce source pollution, while minimizing the emission of greenhouse gases in the fight against climate change.
The Quebec governments for example, adopted new regulations pertaining to the quality of drinking water on May 30th, bringing in the safest water quality standards currently in effect in North America. The Quebec government is also about to introduce a new regulation for groundwater catchment, which will amend the current regulation on the reduction of pollution from agricultural sources, and which will complete the drinking water quality regulations.
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act has also been amended to promote sustainable development through the introduction of pollution prevention measures as well as measures to protect the environment and human health against risks associated with toxic substances.
Enviro-Access president and chief executive officer Manon Laporte says that specialization in environmental technologies, combined with the convergence of information from the different levels of government and university partners, has produced services that are better tailored to an environmental technology company's needs. Having said that, Manon believes that it is feasible for a company to produce more and better environmental products and new technologies in a cost-effective manner. "The investment, in some cases minimal, is worth it, and leads to substantial savings in energy," adds Laporte.
According to Enviro-Access's most recent annual report, the majority of the companies that use the organization's services saw their earnings rise by $18.8 million, an average growth of 6.7% in relation to the previous fiscal year. The companies also generated research and development investments of more than $4 million, and almost $3 million in export growth, while creating more than 134 new jobs.
In today's highly competitive free-trade environment, companies in the environmental sector have no choice but to invest in research and development to improve and maximize their production, and reduce costs as much as possible. Many will turn toward the export market, which holds both considerable promise and substantial financial risk for their organizations.
The complexity of foreign markets, along with the specific economic and political characteristics of individual countries, will force companies to do their homework, testing the foreign market first and then setting their sights on a niche to ensure profitability. In addition, they will have to cope with increasingly stringent environmental standards, while searching for financing and partners to help develop and commercialize their environmental products and new technologies. And with the strategic support and resources available through organizations like Enviro-Access, the sky is the limit.
Sylvain Poisson (email@example.com) is a freelance writer based in L'Epiphanie, Quebec.
The Missing Link
Partnerships provide companies with the necessary resources to help promote the development and growth of environmental technologies.
* The Environmental Industry Virtual Office. This is the result of a public-private sector partnership and is a valuable information source for companies in search of resources available in each province. In Quebec, for example, the Virtual Office represents 19 partners, including Enviro-Access, offering information about environmental technology companies, services, and advice with respect to human resources, research and development, national and international markets, or even investing and financing. You can visit the Environmental Industry Virtual Office at www.virtualoffice.ic.gc.ca.
* The Canadian Business Environmental Performance Office (BEPO). BEPO offers similar services. It has about 100 professionals whose mandate is to facilitate access to information, programs and services, while promoting the growth and development of Canadian industries. BEPO brings together the public and private sectors with a view to making Canadian companies more aware of the important link between their environmental performance, and their profitability and competitiveness. It does this by providing fast, easy and integrated access to major suppliers of information, services and advice on emergency, health and safety management, resource conservation and pollution prevention, waste management, climate change, resource centres and policy development, along with industry-specific information.
* The Commission for Environmental Cooperation. This international organization was created jointly by Canada, Mexico and the United States under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. The Commission hones in on continent-wide environmental issues, helps prevent trade and environmental disputes, and promotes effective application of environmental legislation.
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|Title Annotation:||Enviro-Access supports the environmental technology industry in Canada|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2001|
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