With a firm conviction that collaboration and public engagement hold the key to effecting real changes, SCG has held SD Symposium 10 Years: Circular Economy – Collaboration for Action in collaboration with over 45 partners to foster collaboration among government agencies and private organizations and bring about a true circular economy in Thailand, which will help the country and ASEAN as a whole accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the United Nations.
A Decade of Journey
For the past 10 years, the SD Symposium has centered on the topic of sustainable development. Each year, SCG has raised chief environmental issues and provided examples of successful solutions from across the world to open up a discussion with different sectors and collaboratively seek solutions applicable to Thailand. The SD Symposium has been an arena where various organizations come together to exchange strategies and practices, formulate policies, form guidelines for cooperation, and track results in pursuit of sustainable development.
Overview: Towards Sustainability
The morning session revolved around examples of how interorganizational cooperation was fostered in Thailand and overseas to take sustainable development policies to an international level. Since the 2018 SD Symposium, the circular economy has become a cornerstone of endeavors to achieve sustainability systematically. To this end, SCG has partnered up with over 40 organizations to effect tangible change and provide a model for others.
The circular economy, which stresses efficient resource management, dovetails with the United Nation’s 12th Sustainable Development Goal: Responsible Consumption and Production. The UN expects to accomplish all of its SDGs by 2030.
In response, the Thai government has established a new economic direction known as the BCG Model (Bio Economy – Circular Economy – Green Economy), which is grounded in the Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy and puts forward a set of guidelines that integrate all sectors and cover all dimensions, from behavioral change and growth mindset promotion to innovation and natural resources protection.
“We set a goal to build the economy alongside sustainable development. We embrace the initiatives set forth by the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy while simultaneously seeking to alter behaviors and enact economic concepts based on the circular economy,” – Dr. Suvit Maesincee, Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation
On the other hand, for private and civil society organizations, the focus should be on understanding all activities in their own businesses, from production to delivery of products and services to customers. They should analyze existing steps and synthesize new methods to develop innovation for sustainability, which will benefit not only the world’s resources and humanity but also their operating results.
“IKEA’s objective is a global initiative and it drives every activity, from manufacturing to sales and customer service. Our goal is for all of IKEA’s products to be manufactured from renewable or recycled materials by 2030.” – Mr. Lars Svensson, Sustainability & Communication Director – IKEA Southeast Asia
Accelerating Circular Economy through Collaboration
It takes the cooperation of all parties in the supply chain to drive a circular economy, and that can mean collaborating cross-functionally or even with other industry players. This seminar session was hosted in collaboration with global organizations in three major industries: the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) from the building material industry, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) from the plastic industry, and the Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX) from the packaging industry. The important lesson to share, from years of working to put forward sustainable development, was that macro-level cooperation can help strengthen organizations in their pursuit of sustainable development goals.
AEPW is a non-profit organization that comprises companies that make, use, sell, process, collect, and recycle plastics, including chemical and plastic manufacturers, and works to develop guidelines for plastic waste reduction and management by taking into account the entire plastic value chain. AEPW’s strategy is based on making progress in four key areas: infrastructure, innovation, education and engagement, and clean up.
“Various actions can be undertaken, and inspirations stem from tackling plastics and environmental issues. Eliminating plastic is now integrated into our operations. This initiative must have a solid plan combined with determination.” – Mr. Craig Buchholz, Chief Communications Officer, P&G (member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste – AEPW)
CEFLEX has been working with packaging manufacturers, especially those in Europe, to design reusable plastic, paper, and aluminum packaging, with the goal of recycling 80% of packaging waste. While it is growing regionally, global cooperation proves vital in creating change.
“As for collaborations, we understand that it can’t be accomplished by isolation. Today, entrepreneurs in Europe and CEFLEX are ready to be role models and expand the success to other continents.” – Mr. Graham Houlder, Project Co-ordinator, Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX)
Another way for organizations to collaboratively define common goals for sustainable development is to establish a new one. That was the case with GCCA, which strives to minimize environmental impact from business operations by using innovation in creating databases and designing strategic work processes. It has also formulated its Sustainability Guidelines and shared experience with its members, so that they can achieve their goals together.
“Collaboration may have been successful because we started from within the cement business spectrum. The impact is extended across the supply chain from designers to engineers and even the production line.” – Mr. Benjamin Sporton, Chief Executive, Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA)
Partnership of Circular Economy
While every organization is committed to the same goal of revitalizing the environment and ensuring its sustainability, which is the key driver of a circular economy, theories alone do not lead to tangible results. It takes organization-community partnerships and the unity of all relevant parties in the supply chain to drive innovation.
The question is, given the diversity of business types, work process, and resources, how different organizations can work together to achieve results under the same sustainability framework.
“Collaboration begins at individual level and then expand to the national level. The important thing is that we must have a clear plan, find the like-minded people and collaborate while not ignoring building bilateral collaboration.” – Mr. Denis Nkala, Regional Coordinator and Representative, The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSCC), Asia and the Pacific Office
One of the organizations that coordinates with various agencies to drive the formulation of environmental policies and appropriate practices for each sector on the global level is the UN Environmental Program.
“The recycling industry is worth over USD 20 million. The business has to adapt to support this change. Thus, we need to engage involved parties to work together to deliver results from national to regional levels.” – Ms. Kakuko Nagatani-Yoshida, Regional Coordinator for Chemicals, Waste and Air Quality, Asia and Pacific Office, UN Environment
As one of the biggest waste producers, Indonesia has been trying to reduce the amount of marine debris it generates, with the responsible agency coordinating with the 18 ministries and implementing six waste reduction measures, which have led to various programs aimed at raising public awareness and creating behavioral change in society.
“The challenge in creating partnerships that Indonesia is facing is that the private sector might need to take the lead in tackling the world’s plastic problem, as the government has a tight budget, and engage communities.” – Dr. Safri Burhanuddin, Deputy IV of Coordinating, Ministry for Maritime Affairs of Republic Indonesia
Vietnam is another partner country that hopes to bring about a true circular economy in ASEAN through the formation of a business council tasked with handling pressing issues.
“In a collaboration, talking to people outside of the industry can be a challenge, but everyone needs to work together.” – Mr. Pham Hoang Hai, Partnership Development Head – Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development
As for Thailand, an example of a fruitful partnership is that between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Asian Institute of Technology and SCG, which came together to develop ZyclonicTM, a Reinvented Toilet with an integrated waste treatment system. The innovation helps reduce the spread of germs and health risks associated with unhygienic toilets.
“I value communication because in order to foster collaboration, we must communicate what we are trying to achieve clearly at all times. Everyone has dedicated their expertise to the program, and this will be a vital element to make collaboration possible.” – Mr. Doulaye Kone, Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Another example is Starboard, a water sport equipment producer who has collaborated with an innovation research agency to recycle fishing nets and create excellent quality products. It has also worked with Trash Hero, a volunteer-led ocean cleanup movement to eliminate marine debris. It also indicates on its product labels how much recycled plastics is used and how much marine plastic waste is eliminated.
“Set the target figure for collaboration where we can improve business competitiveness while still enacting changes of the way we do business to mitigate environmental threats.” – Mr. Svein Rasmussen, CEO, Starboard
Strategic Proposal: Thailand Waste Management Way Forward
The ideas put forward by representatives from different sectors during “Thailand Waste Management Way Forward” session, which Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, Vice Chairman of The Board of SCG, summarized and presented to Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, could be condensed into four main strategies as follow.
1 Infrastructure overhaul to support waste management.
2 Promoting the business sector to manufacture products conducive to recycling and responsible scrap management.
3 Raising public awareness to encourage people to reduce waste generation and increase recycling.
4 Strict law enforcement and penalties.
“By developing Thailand in accordance with the circular economy model and with the collaboration of all sectors, we will be able to enhance Thailand’s competitive capacity, generate business expansion with less resources, and create better quality of life and society without leaving more burden for posterity. As the government leader, I will relay the ideas brainstormed today to relevant agencies so that they can be applied, and communicate them to the public so that they are put into practice,” concluded the Prime Minister.
The sustainability of our world is in our hands, and it takes not only knowledge and understanding but also the cooperation of all parties to successfully create a circular economy. Therefore, we can all contribute by, for instance, learning more about ongoing problems and their solutions, adopting these solutions in our daily life, and finally introducing them to larger circles, such as your organizations and communities. Once everyone comes together, our power of unity will enable us to restore the natural environment and create a bright future that we can proudly hand over to our posterity.