Building Sustainable Industries

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Most of the items people consume daily are produced by manufacturing. Some products/services are necessities, such as utilities (water, electricity, etc.), and other products/services are luxuries. Either way, this cycle is always in motion. People demand companies produce, sometimes creating harm to the environment. Thus, we urgently need to upgrade and adapt all industries and infrastructures for sustainability. But what does that even mean? 

Let's start by breaking down industries by sector.


An industry is a group of companies or organizations that produce or supply goods, services, or sources of income. 

In economics, industries are classified as follows: 

  • The primary sector is where we have the raw materials industry. Raw materials are used to make other products; for example, cacao is a raw material used to make chocolate. 
  • The secondary sector of the economy - where we have manufacturing and construction. For example, manufacturing new cars and cell phones. 
  • The tertiary sector covers various activities from commerce to administration, transport, financial and real estate activities, business and personal services, education, health and social work.

Additionally, we can also classify industries by what they produce: 

Agriculture; plantations, and other rural sectors 

Basic Metal Production 

Chemical industries 




Financial services; professional services 

Food; drink; tobacco 

Forestry; wood; pulp and paper 

Health services 

Hotels; tourism; catering 

Mining (coal; other mining) 

Mechanical and electrical engineering 

Media; culture; graphical 

Oil and gas production; oil refining 

Postal and telecommunications services 

Public service 

Shipping; ports; fisheries; inland waterways 

Textiles; clothing; leather; footwear 

Transport (including civil aviation; railways; road transport) 

Transport equipment manufacturing 

Utilities (water; gas; electricity) 

World economies are formed by a combination of international trading within these industries. Everything we make and consume can be classified into one of those industries. Can you match a product or service to its industry sector? For example, what would your internet provider be classified as? - that's right, utilities. They would also be considered to be from the tertiary sector. What would the New York subway be classified as? - you got it! Transport. 

Now the challenge for the current governments and future generations is to redesign and adapt these industries to be more sustainable. 

Achieving Sustainability 

To become sustainable is to ensure the success of the businesses is achieved without harm to the environment; by improving productivity and efficiency through sustainable operations, and the use of environmental monitoring. There are many areas a business might achieve sustainability improvements. For example, using low-cost energy and water-saving devices. But also by implementing behavioral change, such as using less paper, training staff to recycle, etc. 

Most companies today have environmental objectives and follow strict environmental rules. And many companies have opted to hold an environmental management certification, such as the ISO 14001. The ISO 14001 maps out guidelines for companies to follow to ensure no harm to the environment. 

According to a research conducted by small business credit provider Capital on Tap (2019), the top 10 sustainable industries are:



1 Banking 

2 Electrical Equipment 

3 Semiconductor Equipment 

4 Food and Beverage 

5 Industrial Conglomerates 

6 Biopharmaceuticals

7 Manufacturing Equipment

8 Real Estate

9 Communications Equipment

10 Wholesale Power


Many companies in these sectors are likely taking extra precautions to look after their staff and the environment. This can be, for example, by making sure they use sustainable raw materials, giving back to the environment (plant tree schemes, carbon footprint programs, etc.). 

Infrastructures for Sustainability

The concept of sustainable infrastructure refers to 'green' or 'smart' buildings. However, it can be so much more than that. Sustainable infrastructure can encompass a wide range of initiatives with a specific focus on renewable energy, water and land management; access to green areas; the use of smart technology and the use of sustainable, durable building materials.

Masdar City, United Arab Emirates

Masdar City is a planned city project in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. This smart city has been built based on three pillars: economic, social and environmental sustainability. 

The sustainable infrastructure of this city includes a combination of ancient architectural techniques and modern building technologies. In addition, the city has been designed with renewable energy in mind. Its narrow streets provide shade to pedestrians, and wind channelling makes the city cooler than any other city in the United Arab Emirates. Masdar is powered by a 22-hectare (54-acre) field of 87,777 solar panels with additional panels on roofs.

Is this the future? What would your smart city look like? 

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Thinking Cap On

Imagine you are an architect, and you want to design a sustainable home. What things do you need to take into account? Can you produce your own vegetables? Reuse the water? Provide energy for your home using renewable resources? Can you use recycled materials, and if so, which materials would you consider using? 

Plan your green home with your family, discuss your family member's needs, and imagine a future in which all houses are green.