Circular Economy Fostering Sustainable Development

10:22:04 AM | 25/11/2019

The next decade (2020 - 2030) is considered the time-box period for Vietnam to complete the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, called VSDG, in which the circular economy is one of the most important constituents. Mr. Nguyen Quang Vinh, Secretary General of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), Vice Chair of the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD), shared about this issue with the Vietnam Business Forum Magazine. Huong Ly reports.

How do you feel when “sustainable development” is an increasingly popular keyword in the context of international economic integration?

The recently successful National Conference on Sustainable Development 2019, themed “For a decade of more sustainable development”, implied that we will deploy VSDG faster and more widely in the coming time. The conference demonstrated Vietnam's strong commitments to delivering sustainable development goals (SDGs) under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations (UN) in line with Vietnam's social and economic development goals. At the same time, the event asserted the resolve of the Party and the Government in integrating SDGs into the 10-year Socioeconomic Development Strategy (2021-2030) and the 5-year Socioeconomic Development Plan 2021-2025. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc emphasized the necessity for radical and consistent actions from all levels of government, the business community, the people and the international community.

In his opening speech at the National Conference, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam reaffirmed that Vietnam will do its best to realize SDGs under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Sustainable development goals will be incorporated into action plans of the Party, the State, the Government, political organizations and civil society.

On October 11, 2019, the Prime Minister issued Decision 1362 approving the plan for sustainable private sector development to 2025, with a vision to 2030, with the goal of developing private businesses in both quality and quantity, creating a solid foundation and an important driving force for rapid and sustainable socioeconomic development.

In Announcement 358/TB-VPCP, the Prime Minister also requested ministries, ministry-level agencies, government-attached agencies, and People's Committees of centrally run provinces and cities to complete economic institutions within their jurisdiction and create favorable conditions for sustainable development.

With the strong direction from the Government, the cooperation of ministries and VCCI, and the response from businesses and the society, sustainable development has become a “green card” on Vietnam's path to development and global economic integration.

Circular economy has recently emerged as one effective solution to Vietnam’s sustainable economic development. Where is the role of businesses in the circular economy?

Circular economy is key to dealing with conflicts of economic development and environmental protection. The circular economy is considered to be a preeminent model as it creates profits for companies and generates employment and carries the social and environmental values of a green economy. That role of the business is expressed in the way they work together with government agencies for sustainable development.

Business role and sustainable development are closely linked. Sustainable development requires involvement of the business. Meanwhile, business will gain unprecedented benefits if regarding sustainable development as its “flesh and blood” instead of just a general issue. According to a report by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, delivering SDGs will open up at least US$12 trillion of market opportunities and provide over 380 million new jobs by 2030. Or, deploying circular business models - a carbon neutral economy - will create business opportunities of up to US$4.5 trillion. And so, sustainable development is no longer a slogan but a truly practical opportunity for the business community.

Along with the support of VCCI, Vietnamese businesses have gradually deepened the integration of sustainable development: Starting with philanthropy to the exercise of corporate social responsibility (CSR), gradually approaching the concept of sustainable development and now coming a long way towards building and integrating SDGs into the business strategy.

Circular economy is a vital development trend, but the legal framework is still a big challenge. Could you please tell us some solutions to this challenge?

It is true that there are many challenges in this regard! But in my opinion, to adopt the circular economy, businesses, first of all, need government support. In other words, they need to have a circular ecosystem supported to implement this economic model. At present, we do not have any specific and specialized law on circular economy.

In Vietnam, in 2016, VBCSD initiated a program to support the business community to start the circular economy, and we began by raising awareness and providing support. In 2018, the first project on business support for deployment of the circular economy was kicked off - the “Zero Waste to Nature” initiative, which received commitments of both businesses and local authorities to pilot classification of plastic waste at the source in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, and will be soon widely deployed to Da Nang and Hanoi. Another initiative that I want to mention is the Vietnam Materials Marketplace, a playground for businesses to exchange and trade their secondary materials. Waste is a resource and secondary material is also a resource.

We hope delegates, businesses and authorities discuss how we have a business environment and an ecosystem to support businesses to successfully adopt the circular economy model.

So, what are your recommendations to make the circular economy more popular, especially for small and medium enterprises?

First, we need to have a law on the circular economy, and we need to review the legal framework in order to support businesses to adopt the circular economy.

Second, the challenge also comes from the business itself. We will support businesses to make good preparation, effective management tools and especially creative business ideas and apply science and technology to carry out the circular economy successfully.

In the coming time, VBCSD will work with the World Economic Forum, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and government agencies to implement the National Program on Plastic Waste Treatment in Vietnam. And another important project that VBCSD and VCCI are discussing is setting up the Coalition against Plastic Waste. These projects are all dedicated to the Prime Minister's call for plastic waste treatment. They are typical models that can be applied by not only large businesses but also small and medium enterprises, even microbusinesses.

Finally, in my opinion, developing the circular economy in Vietnam requires support from the Government, technical assistance from international organizations, and especially the aggressive involvement of businesses. When businesses are aware of the benefits of this model, they will actively seize opportunities to adopt it.

Thank you very much!