Green jobs

Young Indonesian entrepreneur goes green

Ilham Rhamanda is one of a new generation of entrepreneurs in Indonesia, for whom there is more to business than pure profits. With ILO support he is following a greener, sustainable approach for his sportswear business.

Feature | Bandung, Indonesia | 30 September 2014
Ilham Rhamanda
BANDUNG, Indonesia – Ilham Rhamanda should have been one of the most contented men in Bandung. As a successful young entrepreneur, he and his brother ran an established and thriving sportswear factory, with a reputation for original designs. They employed 12 people and supplied a number of department stores in the city, the capital of Indonesia’s West Java Province. But when he looked to the future, the 34-year-old father of a 2-year-old daughter wasn’t satisfied.

He saw the waste water running from his workshop running into the little streams in his neighborhood. He knew his sportswear factory, like many other small and medium-sized businesses in Bandung, was thriving at the expense of environmental quality, producing large amounts of sewage, garbage and industrial pollution. But making his business profitable and environmentally friendly appeared to him as a “complete puzzle”.
Good business practices should take planet and people aspects, instead of only profit, into consideration.”
So, when the opportunity arose to attend a Start Your Green Business (SYGB) training, organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Ilham jumped at the chance. “Good business practices should take planet and people aspects, instead of only profit, into consideration,” he said. “Because they are critical for our business to grow sustainably.”

The traditional thinking is ‘prosper first and clean up later’ but you can’t continue to prosper if you damage the environment, nor will you if you don’t take care of your workers,” Lurraine Villacorta, Environment and Decent Work Specialist of the ILO, said. “Fortunately, entrepreneurs, especially young entrepreneurs in Indonesia, have realized it. What they need is the knowledge and expertise to put their ideas into practice. And that’s where the ILO comes in.”

Ms Villacorta points out that being “green” means not only reducing your impact on the environment but meeting standards of decent work, such as safe conditions, adequate wages, worker’s rights, social dialogue and social protection. During the SYGB course the trainers explained these principles, policies and practices. They helped Ilham and his fellow entrepreneurs come up with a wide range of green business ideas, including in food and agriculture, sustainable tourism, waste management and recycling, renewable energy and creative industries.
The course helped Ilham find a solution for the toxic water and chemicals coming out of his factory. It gave him the idea to install a filter made of fiber palm, active carbon and a sedimentation box to eliminate the dirt and waste from washing screen prints, inks and chemical liquids and prevent untreated waste water going into local drains and streams. The filter is affordable, easy to install and operate, meaning his products are still priced competitively. His workers are also happier too. “My business activities do no harm to the environment anymore and the local people can still have clean water,” Ilham said. “Now, I have nothing to worry about and my clients too.”

He has also started to promote the ‘green’ aspects of his business and is thinking of new ideas, such as using environmentally-friendly ink for screen printing. “Another plan to further green my business is to develop our own brand with organic raw materials and natural cloth dye,” he said. In the longer term he aims to expand and create more jobs for his community.

The training also offered the young entrepreneurs valuable networking and business opportunities. Ilham now sell the fabric offcuts from his sportswear to another company, which produces headscarf accessories and ladies clothes.

So far the SYGB training has enabled almost 200 entrepreneurs in six provinces in Indonesia to balance their business ambitions with the environmental and climate change challenges around them, either by producing environmentally-friendly products or using environmentally-friendly production processes.
“More and more young entrepreneurs like Ilham are thinking long-term and want to take a more sustainable approach to their business,” said Peter Van Rooij, Director of ILO Country Office for Indonesia. “They know the Indonesian economy has developed rapidly in the past few years but that the development has affected the environment, and they want to move forward in a different way. The ILO is delighted to help them and support a greener, more sustainable economy.”

The SYGB training was organized with the support of the ILO/Korea Partnership Programme through Green Jobs Programme for Asia and the Pacific (Green Jobs-A/P).