Azerbaijan is a land of unique natural contrasts. Nine out of the eleven main climatic types of the Earth are found here and a person can witness all four seasons simultaneously.
There is the splendid vegetation of the humid subtropics and the everlasting snow and glaciers of Shahdagh. The Gabala forests are green and luscious while the steppes of Mil are arid and dry. Azerbaijan's flora is rich and versatile and the nation resembles one huge, colourful carpet in spring. Gazelles, wild boars, wolves, leopards, peasants and bears are some of the wildlife that call Azerbaijan home. The country teems with sites of historical significance. From the palace of the Shirvanshahs to the ruins of old Baku, many UNESCO World Heritage sites are found throughout the land. In fact, in many ways, Azerbaijan resembles Sri Lanka. Our country is also renowned for its natural diversity and the abundant wildlife. Sri Lanka too is an archaeologist's paradise and the countryside is dotted with ruins that signify a great and prosperous era. However, as I found out while attending the Crans Montana Forum, Azerbaijan is facing an ecological crisis.
Azeris at the forum shared with me about how economic development had brought with it widespread pollution to the area. They told me how local scientists consider the Absheron Peninsula (including Baku and Sumqayit) and the Caspian Sea to be the most ecologically devastated areas in the world. They spoke about how the oil industry is creating a lot of wealth but at the same time polluting the landscape. They showed disgust while explaining about the poor management of solid waste disposal and energy. During the forum I learnt about the wanton clearing of forests, about the polluted rivers, the oil sprayed beaches and about land degradation. The eyes of the Azeris showed sadness and anger and they felt betrayed by the government who were letting this happen to their country.
My experiences in Azerbaijan were a stark reminder of how people can destroy their environment in the pursuit of financial prosperity. They also brought to my mind the objectives of the Carbon Consulting Company and how one of my key motivations when founding it was to prevent a similar occurrence happening to Sri Lanka.
The Carbon Consulting Company was established in order to help the Sri Lankan business community to march towards a greener economy. It was initiated to show companies on how to achieve financial prosperity and preserve the environment at the same time. We knew that businesses that engage in wanton destruction of the environment are paving the way for their own downfall. During the last two years CCC has helped many companies achieve a number of environmental firsts in Asia and the world.
We helped Eswaran Brothers Exports to become the first CarbonNeutral® tea company and we helped Mihila, the Hirdaramani green factory in Agalawatta to become the CarbonNeutral® apparel manufacturer in Asia. More recently, CCC helped Sri Lanka’s leading freight and logistics company, Expolanka Freight, to become the first CarbonNeutral® freight forwarding company in Sri Lanka.
We are proud of our achievements; however, this is just the beginning. Sri Lanka as a whole has to take many more steps to become an environmentally sustainable economy. We have to keep moving forward and inspire more and more businesses to be responsible when it comes to environmental protection. Sri Lanka can learn a lot from Azerbaijan. So many good people in that country stayed silent for too long when they saw the destruction of their country. Others compromised when they saw the economic development of the region and failed to protest. Now the country is faced with a mammoth task of cleaning up and future generations will suffer due to the lack of foresight of their ancestors. The Sri Lankan economy too is expanding at a vibrant pace. However, we have to make sure that we do not sacrifice our environment in the name of development.
The business community has the responsibility to take the lead in this matter. If the corporate sector acts now, in fifty years’ time Sri Lanka will be known as the country which achieved economic growth while preserving the environment. If not, we too will fall into the same category of countries like Azerbaijan who destroyed their environment while pursuing financial prosperity.