- The EU-SWITCH-Asia Regional Policy Advocacy Component (RPAC)
- United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)
- The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
“Nations across Asia and the Pacific need to take bold action to ensure empowerment, inclusiveness and equality if the region is to realize the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, Speaking at the opening of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) in Bangkok, March 2019
The Inclusive Green Economy
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges to leave no one behind. At the heart of this ambition is a commitment to empower people, reduce inequalities and promote human rights.
To make our economies greener, fairer, and more inclusive, we need to seriously re-evaluate the economic policies that have resulted in the pollution of our air, water and food. The inclusive green economy has emerged as an alternative to the status quo that creates growth by liquidating natural assets, investing in people and ecological infrastructure as a source of future innovation, revenue, and growth.
The SDG 12, sustainable consumption and production, is about promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all. Its implementation helps to achieve overall development plans, reduce future economic, environmental and social costs, strengthen economic competitiveness and reduce poverty.
Private sector engagement and leadership for achieving SDG 12 is very important, and even more so in the context of SDG 17 that advocates for partnership solutions. Businesses and investors are vital partners and stakeholders for increasing resource efficiency, enabling access to all, and reducing the negative environmental impacts. However, green goods and services such as electric cars, alternative energy including solar, cooling equipment without hydroflorocarbon (HFCs), sustainable food, green housing, and so on are still beyond the affordability of masses. Leaving no one behind has to be an integral aspiration in all aspects of sustainability and green economy pathways.
Panellists shared best practices in business and investment for inclusive green economy pathways and solutions that are advancing implementation of SDG 12 for Sustainable Consumption and Production, whilst “leaving no one behind”. The discussions organized around two main issues: i) the enabling conditions where businesses are not only providing jobs and income, but enhancing human wellbeing, prosperity and social equity, within the contours of positive environmental impact; ii) the enabling environments and incentives that are attracting investors to invest in businesses that accelerate inclusive green economies.
Take Away Messages
After years of sidelining the private sector and business in international negotiations to promote human rights and achieve sustainable development, the reality is that not only are results not improving but they are regressing in many respects. SDG 12 focus on sustainable production and consumption is “deteriorating” in many countries of Asia and the Pacific. Governments alone cannot address this issue. In this context, it is essential to refocus attention on the role of the private sector, business and financial institutions. Good news is that there are already many stakeholders supporting the so-called “inclusive green economy”. UN agencies, the EU, intergovernmental organizations such as the OECD and governments all over the world are currently supporting business to “leave no one behind”. On the other hand, business and financial institutions themselves are also moving rapidly to internalize economic, social and environmental considerations. Let the difference be made by learning from each other how to accelerate inclusive green economies while leaving no one behind.
Panel 1. “Enabling conditions for inclusive and green businesses”
Companies are best able to promote responsible business conduct (RBC) when governments fulfil their own distinctive roles effectively. There are different tools used by business to operationalize responsible business practices that lead to more sustainable production and consumption (e.g. environmental risk management, life cycle assessment, supply chain due diligence, sustainability reporting etc). To the extent that governments provide an enabling legal environment for responsible businesses, they are more likely to keep and attract high quality investors who might otherwise be tempted to go elsewhere. This enabling framework can be promoted through reporting requirements by stock exchanges, due diligence legislation, green public procurement, etc. At the same time, firms that adhere to high RBC standards are more likely to bring lasting benefits to employees, customers and the societies in which they operate. The roles of government, business and civil society are both complementary and interdependent.
Panel 2. “Financing an inclusive green economy”
Awareness and interest are growing within the Thai finance community to support sustainable development and the UN SDGs. The challenges are scalability at the transaction level and institutionalization at the corporate and industry levels. Main tools to drive change are capacity building at the practical level, policy and regulatory support and engagement, taxonomy and data and use of digital technology. The concrete example shared was the fee wavier for green bonds listing by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (SEC). The Bank of Thailand presented the Thailand’s Sustainable Banking Guidance which is not a “hard regulation” but a useful leadership.
SWITCH-Asia Programme, funded by European Union, promotes sustainable consumption and production in Asia focusing on improving resource efficiency and managing in consumption and production for all the sectors. This programme has three major components: (1) Regional Policy Advocacy Component (RPAC) managed by UN Environment, (2) Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) Facility, and (3) Grants for projects in the countries.
The OECD is home to the most comprehensive international instrument on responsible business conduct (RBC), the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD MNE Guidelines), and promotes RBC as a key pillar of the SDGs and sustainable and inclusive growth. The OECD adopts a multi-stakeholder approach to this work, conducting outreach and building partnerships globally.
Most recently, the OECD joined the European Union (EU) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in promoting “Responsible Supply Chains in Asia"(Asia Programme). The objectives of the Asia Programme funded by the EU are to promote RBC with regard to the environment, decent work and human rights in global supply chains, working with national governments and business across China, Japan, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Importantly, this work includes raising awareness and boosting industry capacity on operationalizing RBC practices, including those that are essential to sustainable production and consumption. Specifically, the OECD has been working directly with businesses and business associations across the region in providing technical support and training on key concepts of risk-based due diligence as outlined in the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct (Guidance). The Guidance reflects international best practice standards on due diligence and provides a framework for business to demonstrate their implementation of international expectations, extending to the environment and the broader SDGs. In parallel, under this Programme the OECD is also working with governments to promote policy tools for implementing RBC and the building of enabling environments that support business’ implementation of responsible and sustainable practices.
RPAC in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) facilitated a dialogue on “Sustainability Reporting – Thinking Circular Economy by Businesses” on 27 March, 2019 on the side lines of the the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainability Development at UN Conference Centre in Bangkok. Building on the dialogue on Sustainable Reporting, the EU funded RPAC, in partnership with ESCAP and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), are pleased to convene this dialogue on “Businesses Accelerating Inclusive Green Economies- Leaving No One Behind” focusing on businesses and investors internalizing economic, social and environmental considerations to advance sustainable consumption and production.
The event took place as a side event funded by the European Union SWITCH-Asia Regional Policy Advocacy during the Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum co-organized by the Royal Thai Government, OECD, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), ESCAP, International Labour Organization (ILO) and with the participation of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights
Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed Memon
Regional Coordinator for Resource Efficiency
UN Environment, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Regional Policy Advocacy Component
(SWITCH-Asia – the European Union funded programme)
Email: [email protected]