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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Driving actionable ESG practices with net-zero forum

The Saigon Times

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Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations are rapidly reshaping the global business landscape, and Vietnam is no exception. The ESG Forum 2024, titled “From Ideas to Action,” will take place tomorrow in HCMC, aiming to equip participating Vietnamese businesses with knowledge and tools needed to embrace this transformative framework.

The forum is being organized by The Saigon Times, in collaboration with the EuroCham Green Growth Sector Committee (GGSC) and the ESG & Sustainable Business Transition Alliance. The event will feature a pioneering net-zero carbon initiative, demonstrating the feasibility of hosting large-scale events while minimizing environmental impact.

With a focus on sustainability, the forum is expected to serve as a model for how businesses can make tangible contributions to a more sustainable future.

From ideas to action

To minimize the event’s carbon footprint, the organizers of the ESG Forum 2024 have adopted a comprehensive approach, prioritizing sustainable practices in all aspects of event planning and execution from catering to waste management. Specific actions included assessing transportation emissions and maximizing the use of digital materials to cut down on paper waste.

“Our primary focus is to create a sustainable event by not only integrating the environmental (E) component from a carbon neutrality perspective but also including the social (S) component with various sustainability criteria such as accessibility, security, safety, and volunteering,” said Nguyen Cong Minh Bao, vice chairman of the EuroCham GGSC, co-chairman of the ESG TaskForce under the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Vietnam (CCIFV), and co-founder & COO ESGs & Climate Consulting.

Unavoidable emissions during the forum are calculated using ESGs & Climate Consulting’s innovative carbon assessment tool. This tool, based on 14 years of data and over 8,000 reports, ensured accuracy in the calculation of emissions specific to the Vietnamese context.

The remaining emissions were offset through a collaboration with Planetzero.earth, a local partner, in a biochar compensation project for community development. This partnership allows the ESG Forum to achieve carbon neutrality while also supporting local communities.

Multi-faceted impact

The ESG Forum’s net-zero carbon target extends beyond merely offsets, having a broader social impact through its chosen carbon offset project.

The organizers have selected the Sustainable Bamboo Biochar Production project in the north-central province of Quang Tri as the recipient of carbon offsets. This project not only sequesters carbon through the production of biochar from locally sourced bamboo but also fosters a positive social impact.

Located in an area with about 3,000 farmers, the project creates new economic opportunities and enhances livelihoods. By improving soil fertility and agricultural productivity, it supports sustainable farming practices, particularly benefiting smallholder farmers and minority groups. The project empowers the community through skill development and knowledge transfer in biochar production and sustainable agriculture.

According to Planetzero.earth, the project adheres to the VM0044 Methodology for Biochar Utilization, a recognized standard ensuring rigorous monitoring. While not currently certified due to economic considerations, future certification is being considered.

Power of collaboration

The growing interest and investment in ESG practices globally and in Vietnam are being fueled by a confluence of factors. “For FDI and multinational companies, their shareholders, especially institutional investors, are driving the ESG agenda to ensure compliance with government requirements and reduce future risks for their businesses,” said Erick Contreras, co-chairman of the EuroCham GGSC.

Contreras said European businesses view ESG as a strategic investment rather than a mere cost. They approach ESG with a long-term perspective, recognizing that investing in sustainability can lead to enhanced brand reputation, increased consumer loyalty, and ultimately, sustainable business growth.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which comprise about 90% of Vietnamese businesses, face unique challenges in embracing ESG practices. These challenges include capacity building, access to finance, and understanding complex ESG regulations.

“Vietnamese companies can learn from EU companies to view ESG as medium to long-term investments, rather than short-term,” added Contreras.

Collaboration between governments, businesses, and international organizations is crucial to fostering ESG adoption in Vietnam. Contreras said, “The smooth cooperation between these institutions is very important in promoting and pushing for ESG standards implementation, especially for SMEs.”

A joint approach is key to accelerating ESG adoption in Vietnam and other developing nations. European companies bring expertise and experience, while governments create enabling policies and regulations. International organizations provide critical funding and technical support, ensuring a holistic approach to ESG implementation.

Moving forward

The ESG Forum 2024, with its pioneering net-zero carbon initiative, is part of a transformative shift in the Vietnamese events industry. By demonstrating the feasibility of sustainable event management, the forum can set an example for others to follow.

The ESG Transition Alliance, a collaborative effort between various chambers of commerce, has played a crucial role in driving this change. The ESG Series Masterclass, featured in the forum, goes beyond traditional workshops by providing practical guidance and case studies to empower businesses to take actionable steps in ESG practices.

Bao said, “The ESG Transition Alliance aims to support the sustainable business transition for companies in Vietnam. Our Masterclass series goes beyond awareness-raising; it provides practical tools and knowledge to help companies start their green transition.”

The ESG Transition Alliance and its partners have plans to expand the reach of the Masterclass series, making it accessible to businesses of all sizes. They envision a future where all events, from corporate conferences to community gatherings, are organized with sustainability in mind.

By showcasing best practices, sharing lessons learned, and fostering collaboration, the ESG Forum 2024 aims to create an environmentally responsible event and empower other organizations to adopt sustainable practices.

As Bao put it, “Actions, even with small positive impacts, are more important than learning how to but never applying it.” This forum is not just about raising awareness of ESG but about providing businesses with practical knowledge and tools to “walk the talk” and initiate their own green transitions.

The forum is expected to demonstrate that sustainability is not just a goal but an achievable reality.

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