The 7th National Congress of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) shaped the orientation "Leading construction of Vietnamese business culture to become a foundation for sustainable development, bringing value to every business, entrepreneur and society, today and beyond; promoting construction of a civilized, integrated and world-class Vietnamese business community” and defined building Vietnamese business culture as one of the three strategic breakthroughs of VCCI in the 2021-2026 term.
Business culture is constituted by business ethics, business beliefs, business philosophy, corporate culture, entrepreneurial culture, business communication culture and consumer culture, among others. Thus, it can be understood that business culture is a goal to aim for. But at present, when entrepreneurs think differently about fundamental issues, it is first necessary to create a consensus on common perception of ethical values with which entrepreneurs need to comply. Entrepreneurs, a core factor, play a decisive role in building and shaping the business culture of an enterprise, so building business ethics will serve as a premise for shaping a business culture of an enterprise, an entrepreneur and broader national business culture.
Especially in the context of uncertainties, unpredictability and unprecedented challenges that are, and will continue, emerging as well as new requirements of international integration, sustainable development is the only option. This common approach was consented and committed by the international community and Vietnam as pursued through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (also known as Agenda 2030) in 2015. The Government materialized Agenda 2030 into the National Action Plan for implementation of the agenda with 115 specific targets adapted by Vietnam.
To realize those sustainable development goals, the business community plays a decisive role. Enterprises themselves also need to develop their businesses in a sustainable way to survive and grow in the long term. This is an organic, inseparable relationship. Therefore, building business ethics and Vietnamese business culture associated with sustainable business development is a very necessary, important and meaningful requirement.
When sustainable development is the only option, responsible business also becomes a "guideline" for every entrepreneur. Every entrepreneur always wants to make a profit, which is a legitimate and fundamental desire but business for profit is now no longer an optimal choice. So, if not making a profit at all costs or placing economic interests as the only choice, what direction will an entrepreneur lead his/her business? The answer is: Ensuring economic benefits together with environmental protection and social responsibility. That is the only way for businesses to develop sustainably.
A seminar on business ethics and culture organized by VCCI
Environmental protection and climate response aligned into corporate culture and business strategies have become mandatory requirements stemming from huge challenges that humanity is facing due to climate change, depletion of natural resources and loss of biodiversity. Accordingly, converting from linear business to circular business, zero-carbon business is considered a preeminent and comprehensive solution for the world economy. According to a report by the Institute for Economic Research for ASEAN and East Asia, pursuing the circular economy could generate economic growth worth US$324 billion and 1.5 million jobs in Asia alone by 2025.
Immediately after the Prime Minister made strong commitments at the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) to bring net emissions to "zero" by the middle of this century, reduce global methane emissions and convert coal-fired power to clean energy, the Government drastically and urgently concretized and immediately started implementing commitments to the international community.
On July 25, 2022, Deputy Prime Minister Le Van Thanh signed Decision 888/QD-TTg approving the scheme on tasks and solutions to realize COP26 commitments. Besides, on June 7, 2022, the Prime Minister issued Decision 687/QD-TTg on the project for development of the circular economy in Vietnam. On the contrary, the business community also plays an important role in reducing carbon emissions towards green production and consumption and net zero emissions.
Strengthening public-private partnership (PPP) and digital transformation will help accelerate the path to a green economy. In the coming time, VCCI, with the core of which is the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD), will implement initiatives to further engage the private sector in GHG emission reduction and respond to climate change within the framework of cooperation with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and outstanding sustainable businesses.
It should be emphasized that social development and community life improvement are also creating development for businesses. Needless to say, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a precursor of "sustainable business development". About 20 years ago, the business community started to get to know and adopt CSR. At that time, VCCI encouraged companies to exercise CSR. Since 2005, VCCI has cooperated with the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor to organize the CSR Award to encourage and praise businesses that perform well in CSR. Now, social capital and human capital, one of three pillars of sustainable business development, have been expanded. Referring to social aspects of a sustainable business culture, we also need to cite diversity and inclusion (D&I) factors.
There are many benefits to integrating diversity and inclusion in the corporate culture. Businesses with diverse and inclusive cultures also show resilience and faster recovery from crises. Beyond the enterprise, the inclusivity of business models is demonstrated when a social impact is created by the enterprise. It also promotes the participation of all stakeholders like partners, suppliers, customers, especially disadvantaged groups, thus helping solve challenges in society and improve community life.
Solutions for business
To achieve sustainable development, each entrepreneur and business first of all needs to care, build and foster integrity in business. Every entrepreneur needs to change their business thinking and perception. Thinking always determines actions. They need to incorporate integrity into the culture and into the DNA of the business. Business integrity will not become an inevitable part of corporate culture if it is not in the mindset and determination to act of top management. They should study and apply the Vietnam Business Integrity Index (VBII) to self-assess and measure business integrity, transparency, and information disclosure.
At the same time, they need to strengthen and focus on sustainable corporate governance. Together with VBII, VCCI successfully built and introduced the Corporate Sustainability Index (CSI) to the business community in 2016, guiding businesses to self-assess their "sustainability" on governance - economic - social and environmental pillars, hence practicing corporate governance more professionally and effectively. VBII and CSI are the perfect combination for businesses on their path to sustainability, creating a shield to protect them against risks in the context of many current crises and challenges. Therefore, the business community should actively research and apply VBII and CSI right now in order to improve competitiveness and build a solid development foundation for the business itself.
Companies need to place people at the heart of all production and business strategies. People centrality is also the spirit of the Global Agenda 2030 in general and socioeconomic development policies of the Party and Government in particular. They should boost a more inclusive and diverse culture more strongly and foster innovation and creativity in business. We are living in an unprecedentedly challenging time, so it is necessary to think beyond precedents to create new solutions to new challenges.
In addition, it is necessary to actively take advantage of the power of technology and digital transformation to optimize productivity and business performance of enterprises.
And finally, although each business is individual pieces that may compete fiercely in the market, when they are put together to make a complete picture, they are inseparable. We believe that, when there is the cooperation and cohesion of the business community, in thought, perception and action, illuminated by the foundation of business ethics and business culture, the Vietnamese business force will advance together to build a "sustainable and resilient” Vietnam.
Nguyen Quang Vinh, MBA
VCCI Vice President, Chair of Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD)