Sustainable Development - Key to Business Defense and Growth

Wed, 08 Dec 2021 15:44:00  |  Print  |  Email   Share:

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrecked many businesses. Many entrepreneurs and businesses have started to realize the importance of sustainable development and searched for ways to apply effective sustainable development models and measures to their operations. Mr. Nguyen Quang Vinh, General Secretary of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), and General Secretary and Executive Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD), spoke with Vietnam Business Forum in this regard. Huong Giang reports.

How has the Vietnamese business community been pursuing sustainable development, and how is their resilience to the impacts of COVID-19?

Fifteen years ago, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) decided to establish the Business Office for Sustainable Development. In 2010, as assigned by the Government, VCCI set up the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD) to direct and support companies to achieve sustainable development in Vietnam. At first, sustainable development was a novel and ambiguous concept to both the business community and the whole society. After 10-15 years, with persistent efforts to raise awareness of the business community, businesses have now become not only aware of the concept of sustainable development but also deeply understood its importance and vitality to business activity, especially when facing COVID-19 pandemic ‘shock’.

The COVID-19 pandemic is like a harsh test for business “health”. When consumer demand plummets, export markets shrink and supply chains are disrupted, enterprises are forced to redesign their business plans, strategies and governance. If they cannot adapt to rapid external changes, they may face the risk of production stagnation, revenue decline, or even bankruptcy. In the first 11 months of 2021, more than 100,000 companies went bankrupt, up 15% from a year earlier.

Amidst this reality, companies with strong commitments and persistent pursuit of sustainable development strategies for many years have created their own "antibodies" against the pandemic, enabling them to maintain growth stability and even accelerating development, in addition to giving a lot of financial and material resources to the Government in the fight against the pandemic. VBCSD's survey on current business status amid the COVID-19 pandemic in September 2021 showed that up to 81% of enterprises stepped up industry connectivity to avoid supply chain disruption before “shocks” similar to COVID-19 in the future. In addition, they fostered e-commerce and online business development and digital transformation in order to reduce dependence on traditional markets and business forms. It can be affirmed that pursuing a sustainable development strategy is an effective vaccine for businesses against the negative effects of the disease.

You are reportedly one of the first people to communicate the concept of "circular economy" and persistently stimulate the business community to apply circularity to business. Could you please tell us the importance of applying these models in practice, as well as some activities launched to proliferate the application of these models in Vietnam?

In fact, the concept of circular economy appeared in Vietnam 20 years ago with other designations. It was the model of Garden - Pond - Stables, a model that our agricultural country applied quite successfully at that time. In addition, other notions of “ecological industrial zone”, “cleaner production”, “zero emission”, recycling, reuse, remanufacturing - parts of the circular economy - are also mentioned a lot in recent times. They can be considered “discrete”, “interlaced” and unsystematic concepts. The circular economy offers a new systematic thinking perspective on the use of virgin materials in a way that is more efficient, more economical, longer in life cycle, and higher in value than current conventional ways.

According to 2019 research by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), adopting the circular economy will help create at least US$7.7 trillion of market opportunities for businesses and more than 380 million new job opportunities by 2030 while maintaining sustainable global economic growth.

Building the circular economy was also defined as one of the country's development orientations for the 2021-2030 period in the Document of the 13th National Party Congress and included in the 2020 Environmental Law. This effort is aimed to build a legal corridor and an institutional framework to scale up circular economy models in Vietnam.

The circular economy has been added to working programs of VBCSD/VCCI since 2016. Since 2017, VBCSD/VCCI has included this content into discussion programs at annual forums and conferences on sustainable development hosted by VBCSD/VCCI, helping to raise awareness and to enhance exchange and sharing of the circular economy among the Government, agencies, industries, experts and business community.

In January 2018, VBCSD-VCCI officially debuted the "Business support initiative for circular economy application in Vietnam". This is an innovative effort to enhance competitiveness and further engage businesses to build a zero-emissions economy.

In 2020, VBCSD-VCCI proposed to the Prime Minister the development and implementation of the National Support Program on Circular Economy Application for the business community in the 2021-2025 period.

Besides, VBCSD-VCCI has actively coordinated with its members, domestic and international partners to carry out projects and initiatives such as the Zero Waste into Nature Initiative aimed to reduce plastic waste and build a sustainable business model toward the circular economy; the secondary materials marketplace initiative, research on ready participation in circular economy model in the paper and plastic industries; and training on circular economy for businesses and media agencies.

In October 2021, VBCSD published a research report on the current status and potential of the circular economy of the FMCG industry in Vietnam, focusing on food and non-alcoholic beverages sectors. The research showed that 90% of respondents have adopted the circular economy model at different levels, focusing on prioritized use of raw materials, infrastructure and package use.

Could you please tell us more about VBCSD's action programs for sustainable development in the coming time?

In the coming time, fulfilling the responsibility assigned by the Government according to Resolution 136/NQ-CP on sustainable development, VBCSD-VCCI will actively and effectively carry out support initiatives to promote companies to adopt sustainable development and circular economy models and, at the same time, speed up sustainable business assessment using the Corporate Sustainability Index (CSI) and announce Top 10 most sustainable businesses. On December 9, the ceremony of announcing Top 100 sustainable companies in Vietnam 2021 will be held, in both virtual and physical forms. The program is expected to be attended by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, Chairman of the National Council for Sustainable Development and Competitiveness Enhancement, representatives of governmental agencies, diplomatic missions, international organizations, companies, experts and press agencies. On the same day, VBCSD-VCCI will hold the Vietnam Corporate Sustainability Forum 2021 themed "Toward a better and more sustainable decade: Leaving no one behind" to provide an opportunity for businesses to exchange, discuss and share solutions and propose recommendations to the Government to enhance resilience and improve competitiveness and sustainable development while strongly fostering the business community to transform business thinking, change perceptions and ways of business administration.

VCSF Forum and CSI Program are annual events held by VCCI to inspire businesses to develop sustainably and effectively, ensuring a close, reasonable and harmonious combination of economic efficiency, social responsibility and resource and environmental protection. VCSF and CSI 2021 are expected to be hosted by VCCI on December 9, 2021. The event is expected to be attended by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, Chairman of the National Council for Sustainable Development and Competitiveness Enhancement, 150 offline delegates and 1,000 online participants, including representatives of governmental agencies, diplomatic missions, international organizations, enterprises, trade associations, experts and media agencies.

Currently, VBCSD-VCCI is coordinating with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor and some members of VBCSD to continue developing and completing the Industrial Park Sustainability Index in Vietnam. If each company is assessed as a “cell” of the Vietnamese economy, promoting the formation of sustainable industrial parks will create a premise to gather healthy cells and form sustainable functions for a powerful economic body of Vietnam.

Thank you very much!

By: Vietnam Business Forum



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