Interview with Luis Muñoz, Director of the Guatemalan Cleaner Production Center

Published on Monday, 30 January 2023

The Guatemalan Cleaner Production Center Foundation (CGP+L) began its activities in 1999 as part of the United Nations global initiative to promote the valorization of the environment by the business sector through the application of the cleaner production strategy. Since 1989, when the Cleaner Production Strategy definition, the focus and scope of CGP+L environmental management have been evolving, even reaching the level of developing tools and methodologies that transform business models by beginning to consider the environment as part of their basic structure.

The circular economy is one of the most exciting and innovative concepts transforming companies' environmental vision and influencing environmental public policies. The CGP+L is one of the institutions in Guatemala that promotes the efficient use of resources, cleaner production, and the circular economy as a technical route that companies should take to improve their competitiveness and environmental compatibility.

Luis Muñoz, director of the Guatemalan Center for Cleaner Production, was interviewed because of the relevance of this actor in promoting the circular economy in Guatemala.

What is the mission of the Guatemalan Cleaner Production Center?

As a technical institution, the CGP+L aims to facilitate initiatives that help the country's companies improve their environmental performance. It does this through several lines of action: technical advice, environmental education, technical verification, research, communication, and strategic alliances.

It is important to build local capacities to amplify the implementation of circular economy. Therefore, making available technical assistance and environmental education programs contributes directly to achieving a correct application of the principles of circularity. In this line, the Environmental Academy, established in 2020, has had at least 5,100 participants in its different activities and training programs, thanks to virtuality.

Concerning technical verification and communication, the CGP+L seeks to facilitate systems that allow for the evaluation of companies' actions through environmental seals that value those beyond legal and environmental compliance. The seals also allow public communication of the verification process and compliance with defined standards to achieve business differentiation and contribute to the environmental culture of Guatemalan consumers.

By having environmental verification and differentiation tools, communication channels exist to provide feedback to the different sectors of society. Currently, the CGP+L has the podcast "Circularity," a space for environmental specialists to share their knowledge, success stories, and lessons learned. Other dissemination and communication channels include the magazine "Tendencias de Desempeño Ambiental" (Environmental Performance Trends), electronic newsletters, and massive public events.

In terms of research, the foundation keeps its doors open to link with the country's academic sector, to contribute to the development of research through university technical projects, thesis preparation, internships for students, and actions aimed at generating practical and helpful information for business application. Similarly, thanks to the Environmental Performance Program, we already have the report's first publication with results from the first four years to share information to develop further and evaluate the environmental performance profile of the country's companies, including, of course, the circular economy.

As part of its strategy, the CGP+L always seeks that its actions contribute to establishing strategic alliances, as it is essential to achieve real progress on environmental issues and challenges in Guatemala and globally. Environmental networking is of great value to the work of the CGP+L, which is why it has dedicated itself to creating massive and targeted spaces to promote the creation of this type of network that has a multiplying effect that benefits companies and the country.

What role does the Guatemalan Cleaner Production Center play in promoting the circular economy in Guatemala?

The role of the CGP+L is to facilitate the relationship between "environmental supply and demand." Therefore contributed to the technical strengthening of companies and organizations, and in the last seven years, has sought to strengthen its organizational structure to be an entity that verifies technically and objectively the implementation of proper environmental practices and now of circularity.

As of 2018, the generation of a new phase of CGP+L's work began thanks to the implementation of the Environmental Performance Program, which aims to facilitate tools and methodologies so that companies can practically identify their progress and opportunities on the subject of resource efficiency and circular economy. The DDA tool (Environmental Performance Diagnostics) helps to create technical evaluation forms for companies. Companies may perform these technical exercises free of charge, without limits, reducing time in its completion compared to traditional processes like before the Internet, always keeping valuable information confidential.

How has the circular economy ecosystem evolved in Guatemala?

One of the most valuable contributions of this program in terms of information is the evaluation of the progress made by companies in the circular economy. In summary, the trend indicates that in Guatemala, there has been very positive progress in internal environmental management, focused on legal compliance or environmental requirements and the correct treatment and management of emissions and solid waste. The second achievement is internal preventive management, linked to optimizing water, energy, chemicals, and materials.

However, when analyzing the information generated by the self-diagnoses carried out voluntarily by the companies, the excellent opportunity to extend their environmental management to stakeholders such as suppliers and customers is also identified, which is one of the relevant points in the circular economy. Therefore, one of the main challenges for companies in their drive to move towards circularity is strengthening the green chaining approach. 

As a result, the CGP+L recommends strengthening the business sector by providing it with tools, methodologies, and systems and even promoting public policies that will allow it to evolve its internal environmental management with a chaining approach. With the latter, companies will be better prepared for more profound changes and to value and implement issues such as life cycle analysis and circular business models.

In addition to the program's results, environmental surveys were conducted between 2020 and 2022, generating beneficial and exciting information. One of the analysis conclusions is that the traditional interpretation of a circular economy in Guatemala occurs within practices of recycling and recovery of solid waste, which is part of, but not the real and full scope of it. Therefore, it is relevant to disseminate and strengthen the circular economy concept so that the country's companies identify the tremendous economic and environmental opportunities offered by being circular and non-linear.

What are the plans of CGP+L in its work with the private sector in Guatemala?

In the short term, the CGP+L aims to structure a practical self-diagnosis focused entirely on evaluating the level of implementation of the circular economy concept in the country's companies, based initially on the methodologies already defined in terms of environmental performance. Likewise, having a seal that values the implementation of circular practices can also positively contribute to promoting the topic in the country.

It is essential to mention that the Environmental Performance Program, like the Environmental Academy, is based on the Internet, so any company in Latin America (or any Spanish-speaking country) has access to these evaluation and training initiatives.

The foundation's work is possible thanks to the support of at least 85 companies, which currently participate actively in the different implemented programs and initiatives. It also has the backing and institutional support of the Chamber of Industry of Guatemala, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, and the Municipality of Guatemala.

Finally, we invite you to join us and learn more about the project by visiting the SITE: