An interview with Luis Munoz, Director of the Guatemalan Center for Cleaner Production
The Guatemalan Center for Cleaner Production (Centro Guatemalteco de Producción Más Limpia, CGP+L) began operations in 1999. It was part of a global United Nations initiative to promote environmental improvements in the business sector by applying a strategy of clean production. Since 1989, the year in which the Estrategia de Producción Más Limpia (Cleaner Production Strategy) was defined, the focus and scope of environmental management has evolved, leading to the development of tools and methodologies that transform business models by considering the environment as part of their basic structure.
The circular economy is an interesting and novel concept that is transforming the way companies view the environment, and is even influencing public policy on environmental issues. The CGP+L is a Guatemalan institution that promotes the efficient use of resources, clean production, and the circular economy as a technical route that companies should take in order to improve their competitiveness and environmental compatibility.
Given CGP+L’s importance in promoting the circular economy in Guatemala, we interviewed its director Luis Muñoz, who is a qualified engineer.
What is the CGP+L’s mission?
As a technical institution, the CGP+L aims to facilitate initiatives that help the country's businesses improve their environmental performance. It does so through different lines of action: technical consultancy, environmental education, technical verification, research, communication and strategic alliances.
It is important to build local capacity so that the implementation of circular economy methods is scalable over time. For this reason, making technical assistance and environmental education programs more available directly contributes to achieving the objective of ensuring the correct application of circularity principles. The Academia Ambiental (Environmental Academy) stands out in this respect. It was established in 2020 and so far it has seen at least 5,100 people take part in its various activities and training programs. This is also thanks to its online accessibility.
Regarding the areas of technical verification and communication, the CGP+L seeks to facilitate systems that make it possible to evaluate the actions of companies. This is done by using environmental seals which are awarded to those businesses that go beyond legal environmental compliance. Likewise, the seals have been designed so that the process of verification and compliance with defined standards can be announced publicly. This is in order to help companies stand out and to contribute to the environmental culture of Guatemalan consumers.
With tools for environmental verification and distinction in place, channels of communication have been opened up to provide feedback to different sectors of society. The CGP+L currently hosts the "Circularidad” (Circularity) podcast, a space where environmental specialists can share their knowledge, success stories and the lessons learned. Other dissemination and communication channels include the magazine “Tendencias de Desempeño Ambiental” (Environmental Performance Trends), electronic newsletters and major public events.
In terms of research, the foundation has links with the country’s academic institutions. This has the aim of contributing to the development of research through technical university projects, thesis preparation and student internships — actions that are aimed at generating practical, useful information for application in business. And thanks to the Programa de Desempeño Ambiental (Environmental Performance Program), the first report containing the results of the initial four years is already available. This provides information to further develop and evaluate the environmental performance profile of companies in the country, including in terms of the circular economy, needless to say.
As part of its strategy, the CGP+L always seeks to ensure that its actions contribute to the forging of strategic alliances: this is critical to achieving real progress on environmental issues and challenges in Guatemala and globally. This "environmental networking" is of great value to the work of the CGP+L, and so it is dedicated to the creation of large and targeted spaces for promoting the creation of networks that have a multiplier effect for the benefit of companies and of the country.
What role does the CGP+L play in promoting the circular economy in Guatemala?
The CGP+L’s role is as an institution that facilitates the relationship between "environmental supply and demand," which contributes to the technical strengthening of companies and organizations. In the last seven years, it has tried to consolidate its organizational structure so that it can verify, both technically and objectively, the implementation of good environmental practices, and now circularity.
A new phase in the CGP+L’s work began in 2018, thanks to the implementation of the afore-mentioned Programa de Desempeño Ambiental. This aims to provide tools and methodologies to companies to identify their progress and opportunities in the area of resource efficiency and the circular economy in a practical way. The DDA – Diagnóstico del Desempeño Ambiental (Diagnosis of Environmental Performance) tool helps to create technical evaluation modules for companies, so that they can carry out free, unlimited, online technical exercises. This reduces the time needed to complete them compared to more traditional processes, in addition to ensuring important aspects such as confidentiality.
How has the circular economy ecosystem evolved in Guatemala?
One of the most valuable parts of this program in terms of information is the assessment of the progress made by companies in the circular economy. Basically, the trend indicates that Guatemala has seen very positive progress in internal environmental management, with a focus on compliance with legal and environmental requirements, and the proper treatment and management of emissions and solid waste. The second achievement is internal preventive management, which is linked to the optimization of the use of resources such as water, energy, chemical products and materials.
However, when analyzing the information generated by the voluntary self-diagnoses carried out by companies, we can see a huge opportunity to extend environmental management to stakeholders such as suppliers and customers, which is one of the key points of the circular economy. Therefore, one of the main challenges for companies on their journey toward circularity is to strengthen the green chain approach.
As a result of all this, the CGP+L recommends strengthening the corporate sector by providing tools, methodologies, systems and even promoting public policies that enable the evolution of their internal chain approach to environmental management. In this way, it is expected that companies will be better prepared to face deeper changes, and to appreciate and implement life cycle analysis and circular business models.
In addition to the program's results, environmental surveys were conducted between 2000 and 2022 which produced very interesting and useful information. One of the conclusions of the analysis is that the traditional interpretation of the circular economy in Guatemala is framed in the practices of recycling and recovery of solid waste, which is a part of the circular economy but not the true and complete scope of it. Therefore, it is important to spread and strengthen the concept of the circular economy, so that businesses in Guatemala can identify the great economic and environmental opportunities on offer by being circular and not linear.
What are the CGP+L’s future plans in terms of its work with the private sector in Guatemala?
In the short term, the CGP+L plans to implement a practical self-diagnosis, focused entirely on assessing the level of implementation of the circular economy concept in companies in the country. It will initially be based on methodologies that have already been defined in terms of environmental performance. At the same time, it is expected that having a seal which will be awarded to those companies that implement circular practices will contribute positively to the promotion of the issue in the country.
It should also be mentioned that both the Programa de Desempeño Ambiental and the Academia Ambiental are operating online, and so any company in Latin America (or any Spanish-speaking country) has access to these assessment and training initiatives.
The foundation's work is carried out thanks to the support of at least 85 companies, which are currently participating in the various programs and initiatives that have been implemented. It also has the support and institutional backing of the Chamber of Industry of Guatemala, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources and the Municipality of Guatemala.
Last but not least, we invite you to join us and find out more about the project by visiting our website: