‘Latin America comprises nine per cent of global GDP yet it accounts for less than 0.2 per cent of new patents,’ so said one of the panellists in a session here at World Economic Forum on Latin America, Puerto Vallarta. The panellist, Eduardo Wanick, President of DuPont Latin America, was highlighting the scope for Latin America to grow through increasing its ability to innovate.

Having spent two days last week in Queretaro, near Mexico City, working with Imbera, a subsidiary of FEMSA (one of Mexico’s largest companies), there is a huge appetite for innovation in at least some parts of the Mexican economy. Imbera designs, develops and manufactures commercial refrigerators. My colleagues in BioRegional Mexico have been working intensively with Imbera over the past year to integrate the highest levels of sustainability into their operations using the One Planet Living sustainability framework. This commitment to innovation is clearly demonstrated by their R&D department which, among other new products, aims to develop refrigerators which will generate more energy than they consume.

Much of the battle for an environmentally sustainable future will be won or lost in the emerging economies. As my friend Nicholas Parker, chair of Cleantech Group, says, ‘We must take emerging ideas into emerging economies.’ On the panel with the man from DuPont was Helio Mattar from Brasilian NGO Akatu and Schwab social entrepreneur, promoting conscious consumption and collating a ‘repertoire of solutions’ for green production and consumption. A new Schwab social entrepreneur this year is Philip Wilson from Ecofiltro in Guatemala whose simple, cheap water filters also save carbon emissions by reducing the need to boil water. We can take emerging ideas into emerging economies, but clearly ideas are also emerging in these countries as well. Social entrepreneurs in the Americas have no shortage of ideas which, if taken up, will enable the emerging economies to create the sort of future we all want.


Author: Pooran Desai, Co-founder, BioRegional and International Director, One Planet Communities, United Kingdom; Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Europe, 2011