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Sustainability and the bottom line


February 4, 2020
By Maddi Badiola

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Photo: AdobeStock

The Nature Conservancy called aquaculture a “compelling investment opportunity with meaningful impact.” Particularly about recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), one thing is clear: talking about RAS is talking about sustainability and as such, operating sustainably means that every link of the production chain has to commit to such a statement.

The American Cleaning Institute (ACI) recently launched a sustainability report detailing its strategies for taking bolder collective actions. ACI is typical of many industrial sectors that recognize the driving social, environmental and economical forces that demand increased transparency, reduced emissions, respect for nature, and positive global impacts.

Within these goals and strategies are the pressing opportunities to embrace a more circular/sustainable economy, think bigger, be fearless, and be more innovative – generating returns alongside positive social and environmental impacts.

Many parts of the supply chain are prone to detrimental health and environmental impacts and it is there where the transparency requested by consumers obligate managers to prioritize responsible practices. At the end, great quality fish in the plate means a happy fish in the tank.

And where does efficiently used energy fit in this process? In the generation of positive global impacts while producing fish.

Making the right choice
Companies now have access to an expanding menu of innovative clean energy alternatives, and choosing the best options depends upon the unique circumstances of each business and project location. But the choice has to be done. Thus, company managers, during planning and design activities should have answers for different questions, such as: energy efficiency with renewable options, is that necessary and/or viable? Is that the best option for my company? Is my company eligible for funding to implement cleaner technologies? Will the company be located in a place with easy access for such alternatives?

It is true that access to government incentives and/or promotions offered by energy providers are making green projects more viable. The investment required for cleaner technologies is still higher than for the conventional energy sources, although their implementation could be a way to enhance incomes via different marketing strategies. As such, the best option is taking the long view. After the financing pays off, the energy saving benefits continue for years, benefiting company’s profitability economically and globally.

Sustainability planning
One of the most important steps is to be in contact with experts in the field of different energy sources, building insulation, roofing, lighting. Every energy-using component (both active and/or passive elements) has to be taken into account in the designing process.

At the same time, a sustainability plan including energy efficiency as one of the pillars should answer questions such as: What are the benefits of sustainability and energy-efficiency investments? Will my customers value companies committed to sustainability over others when making purchasing decisions? How much will the expenditure be on building and energy-related equipment maintenance? What federal, state and local tax benefits and other resources are available to companies that invest in energy efficiency and sustainability? Is there any cost-reduction opportunities for my company, including green buildings, energy-efficient lighting, and solar and wind energy options?

There are many questions to be answered but necessary for one’s business development plan to be successful. There are important financial questions and decisions to be made – how will the investment be financed? This will be a solution-based approach customized to the needs of each company. What you need is what you get.

Thus, the assessment of capital options should be comprehensive to ensure that the company has the best possible solution. Having a wide range of financing alternatives to consider, the goal is to sort out the most attractive solution, the one that fits best with capital and balance-sheet requirements, as well sustainability goals and objectives.

Public opinion
Incomes and the company’s main objectives are driven by marketing strategies. Many people are content to continue with the old extractive business models. But those that care differently want to hear a truthful and genuine story that supports their desire to care and make a positive impact. Making sure the customers understand the full sustainability commitment of the company will be key to creating loyalty within the public.

Third-party validation
Certification processes and different labels are also important here. There are already some certified RAS companies out there which, through social media’s influence, reach more and more customers not only in the local area but also in farther distances.

Nevertheless, from an expert point of view, it is reasonable to doubt some of the certification processes and the scope and/or factors they take into account when assessing a company. Not all of the programs are equal and not all of the factors are assessed. The limiting factors of each of them must be clear for the customers, including what is and what is not under the scope of study.

Follow my next article to know more about different certificate programs available for RAS.

And do not forget that in a century where customers are concerned about what they are serving or being served in their plates, creating a more sustainable business model represents a significant opportunity for companies.


Maddi Badiola, PhD, is a RAS engineer and co-founder of HTH aquaMetrics llc, (www.HTHaqua.com) based in Getxo, Basque Country, Spain. Her specialty is energy conservation, life cycle assessments and RAS global sustainability assessments. Email her at mbadiolamillate@gmail.com or contatct her through LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.


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