Business, government and civic society leaders at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development on Tuesday committed to taking urgent action to improve sustainability across six sectors relevant to Asia.
More than 500 delegates put their heads together to craft a set of industry commitments and policy recommendations for agriculture & forestry, palm oil, consumer goods, financial services, building & urban infrastructure and energy.
Some key themes that emerged from recommendations include the need for government and policy-makers to create a level playing field and provide clarity for business leaders to make investment decisions; to collaborate across individual sectors to share solutions and overcome conflicts; and to communicate the successful case studies that will generate inspiration and empower more direct action of sustainable solutions.
Young leaders from tertiary institutes and young professionals in the field of sustainability also gathered to discuss sustainability issues in the inaugural Responsible Business Young Leaders Dialogue, held at the sidelines of the main forum.
They covered four subjects - Energy, Sustainable Consumption, Sustainable Cities, and Agriculture and Forestry - and presented recommendations to forum delegates. These included the importance of recognizing that trade-offs exist in resource consumption and ensuring that the use of such resources do not jeopardise the future well-being of our environment, and for businesses to manage the life-cycles for every product that gets produced, consumed and disposed.
Opening the second day of the forum, Singapore Exchange (SGX) CEO Magnus Bocker set the backdrop for the day of discussions by highlighting the importance of responsible business and sustainable investment.
Acknowledging SGX’s role as the frontline regulator of listed companies, he said SGX will take the lead as custodians of corporate responsibility.
“Tougher regulations will come… but we also need efficient capital markets. The more efficient the capital market is, the better it can help to fund companies in their growth plans and add value to the community,” he said.
Business leaders at the forum such as Ms Koh Ching Ching, Head, Group Corporate Communications, OCBC Bank, said the forum was a “good platform for companies, non-governmental organisations and policy makers to share their experiences and best practices on sustainable development and offer recommendations for making further inroads towards a global green economy”.
“Asia is still at the early stage of the transformation process, but if every stakeholder is committed to seeking practical business solutions, we are effectively taking that step towards ecological stability and renewal, for a common future,” she said.
Lynelle Cameron, Senior Director for Sustainability, Autodesk & CEO, Autodesk Foundation, added that governments and businesses in Asia Pacific “have recognized that sustainability is not just a minor piece in economic development but a key driver for growth and competitiveness of the economy.”
“It has been an inspiring experience listening to speakers talk about importance of natural capital and green economy,” she said.
Asia is still at the early stage of the transformation process, but if every stakeholder is committed to seeking practical business solutions, we are effectively taking that step towards ecological stability and renewal, for a common future
Koh Ching Ching, Head, Group Corporate Communications, OCBC Bank
Delegates at the forum also discussed the relatively new concept of natural capital extensively. There was agreement that natural capital, also known as ecosystem services, should be valued and considered in business decisions with the same importance as financial capital.
At the forum, IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, TEEB for Business Coalition and partners used the strategic occasion of the forum to launch the landmark project, Natural Capital Protocol.
Dorothy Maxwell, Executive Director, TEEB for Business Coalition, said: “We are impressed with the caliber of stakeholders in this year’s forum. We have seen great interest having just launched the Natural Capital Protocol here at the forum. We would like to extend an invitation to businesses working in sectors including agricultural commodities, forestry, mining, energy, consumer goods and finance to participate in the Natural Capital Project as these sectors are vital to address natural capital risks and opportunities in the Asian region.”
The outcome document was issued at the end of the two-day forum held in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands Expo Convention Centre. Co-organised by Global Initiatives, Eco-Business.com, TEEB for Business Coalition,World Business Council for Sustainable Development and WWF, the forum is also supported by the Singapore Tourism Board, National Environment Agency, Building and Construction Authority, Centre for Liveable Cities, Singapore Business Federation and media partners The Straits Times and Bloomberg Television.
Corporate partners include ABB, Autodesk, Aviva, CIFOR, City Developments Limited, Credit 360, DNV, Marina Bay Sands, Monsanto, OCBC Bank, Ricoh, South Pole Carbon, Veolia Water and Wilmar International.
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