Sustainable Development Oriented Business: Investment for the Future

5:08:24 PM | 5/26/2011

Sustainable development is becoming a common trend for the whole world. This is also the goal of social and economic development in Vietnam, for businesses in particular.
Mr Nguyen Quang Vinh, Director of Business Office for Sustainable Development of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and Secretary General of the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD), said that sustainable development is to meet current needs and inflict no damage on the ability to meet the demand of future generations. Therefore, most countries in the world have placed sustainable development agendas in their economic, social and environmental development plans.
Do you think it is a descent if economic growth is achieved only at the expense of unimproved environment and society?
That is certainly correct. Nowadays, green growth and green economy are frequently mentioned and the world is in a green race. For example, the European Union (EU) has up to 45 percent of solutions to green technology development; Japan has many green technical solutions; China and India are also pointing toward green technology. The green race has started. This is a very long race and winners are the ones who know to create greenest, lowest-carbon solutions and turn them into sources of export and interests for such nations.
At present, Vietnam’s Government issued the strategy for sustainable development (or Vietnam’s Agenda 21) which generally aims for the achievement of material prosperity, spiritual and cultural affluence, equity among all citizens, and consensus of the society. The harmony between humans and nature, and development must represent the close, rational and harmonious combination of three factors: Economic development, social development and environmental protection.
What must a business specifically do to ensure sustainable development?
Sustainable development is a long-term objective for any enterprise. To realise it, a company may need to use various tools like good fulfilment of corporate social responsibility. Each field or industry requires different solutions to sustainable development. But, the denominator of a sustainable company is the ability to meet the needs of economic, social and environmental development.
Based on that, the company will self-orient the deployment of business activities and integrate the concept of sustainable development into business activities, i.e. how to do effective business, not only economically but also socially and environmentally. For example, companies in the footwear and apparel industries can excellently deal with issues relating to labour safety and hygiene, working conditions, overtime mechanism, protect green environment inside and outside their factories, train human resources, conserve energy, apply green technology to highly-effective but environment-friendly production lines. These are matters for sustainable development of an enterprise.
Do you agree that it is not very difficult for large businesses to carry out sustainable development solutions, but it is a major problem for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) because of financial barriers?
Applying sustainable development solutions is not only a financial issue, but more importantly, requires resources and knowledge. Multinational corporations have an advantage because they have longer histories, stronger financial, knowledge and personnel capacities. But, this does not mean that Vietnamese businesses do not have any advantage. Vietnamese businesses are mainly small and medium scale. Although they have weaker financial capacity, they are dynamic and quick-witted. SMEs should regard this issue as a long-term investment. Today, the scope may be small but it will grow tomorrow. They must know to invest for the future rather than present.
In my opinion, sustainable development needs to be integrated into their long-term business strategy. This also represents the vision of business leaders. Above all, companies must master their business plans and they should not be in search for profit only. They need to make a profit in the context that others also do it and all surrounding people benefit. This is called WIN - WIN - WIN situation (Companies, the State, and people as well as other stakeholders in the society have benefits.)
What does VBCSD plan to do to change the perception of businesses on this issue?
With the support of the Government, VCCI worked with domestic and foreign businesses and established the VBCSD in December 2010. This is the first step and evidence of the Vietnamese business community determination in joining ministries, industries and localities to implement the orientated strategy for sustainable development in Vietnam.
VBCSD has a very close relationship with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). It is a CEO-led, global association of some 200 companies dealing exclusively with business and sustainable development. Moreover, it also has a global network of 60 regional and national councils for sustainable development. This is a good opportunity for the VBCSD to learn, share and collaborate.
In 2011, the council will emphasize raising awareness for enterprises, especially SMEs, of sustainable development by organising propaganda and training activities, seminars and symposiums. Besides, we focus on learning methods to approach green technology solutions and economies in transition to a sustainable world. We will boost international cooperation to bring good practices and experience in other countries for Vietnamese companies to apply. For example, we will launch programmes for conserving energy in offices and building sustainable cities in an urbanising world, initiatives of water resource protection, initiatives of building a sustainable cement industry, good practices of sustainable forest management, and development vision to 2050.
All these initiatives have been applied by the WBCSD and we will apply these experiences and make them more suitable for Vietnam.