The Business for the Environment (B4E) Global Summit in Jakarta this year was one of the first sustainable business development conferences to be held in Indonesia. It attracted over 700 distinguished national and international delegates, including Indonesian President (and guest of honour) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and representatives of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, WWF, Google, Siemens, McKinsey & Company and the media, among the latter former MTV Asia presenter Nadya Hutagalung.
The groundbreaking summit helped launch the Indonesian Business Council for Sustainable Development (IBCSD) as a new chapter of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a corporate-led association of some 200 companies dealing exclusively with business and sustainable development. The IBCSD was set up by six prominent Indonesian companies including Holcim Indonesia, Garuda Indonesia, Bakrie Telecom, Medco Power, Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) and Bank Negara Indonesia.
Furthermore, business leaders agreed to six pledges as part of the ‘B4E 2011 Business Declaration’ aimed at helping Indonesia on the path toward attaining its sustainable development goals, which include reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 per cent by 2020. The six pledges include: agreeing to support zero net deforestation by 2020 by phasing out products sourced from deforested areas; investing in energy resource efficiency programmes; promoting sustainability throughout company supply chains; supporting programmes that protect high biodiversity and carbon storage areas; investing in sustainable urban planning; and promoting more sustainable consumption in Indonesia.
In addition to such transformational solutions, pressing environmental issues faced by Indonesia and the rest of the world were discussed at the conference. But as UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said, ‘People gather at a summit like this not because the end is nigh. People gather because they recognise the problems and because we know that “business as usual” cannot continue. We gather to debate what the transformational solutions for our planet are which can put it on a sustainable course. We also gather in the belief that humankind is up to meeting these challenges by embracing change and harnessing the full potential of green and inclusive development.’
Various other transformational solutions were discussed by notable representatives from government, international organisations and business. President Yudhoyono confirmed the Indonesian government’s commitment to growing its economy while also pursuing sustainable development goals. Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and is currently the third fastest growing economy in the G20 after India and China. ‘With the support of the international business community, Indonesia can achieve seven per cent economic growth as well as a 26 per cent reduction of green house gas emissions from business as usual by 2020,’ the President said.
To this end, Indonesia has developed a number of its own schemes, including the Indonesian Climate Change Trust Fund (ICCTF) and a US$1 billion green investment fund, and is furthermore supporting international schemes such as the UN-backed REDD+, which aims to balance economic growth with environmental and social stability by providing financial incentives to preserve biodiversity-rich tropical forests (Indonesia is home to the world’s third largest). ‘REDD+ is an example of a new way of managing Indonesia’s natural resources without abandoning industries vital to the economy,’ said the President. ‘It is about sustainability for continued growth, enhanced human capital, ensuring social equality while at the same time achieving our emission reduction goals.’
The President reiterated the need for business involvement, stating: ‘The government alone no longer has all the solutions to secure our climate future. We need a grand scheme that will involve government policies, international cooperation, market incentives, technology innovation, civil society participation and corporate participation,’ and he urged business leaders to ‘act now’ to make a difference.
The UNDP’s Helen Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand, argued that we need many more transformational solutions like REDD+ to lock in a sustainable future for our planet, acknowledging that the move toward a cleaner, more sustainable world will mean turning old development models on their heads: ‘Gone are the days when clearing forest for other land uses can be regarded as development.’ In Brazil, for example, the soy industry has agreed not to purchase soya beans produced on rainforest lands deforested since 2006. ‘Industry commitments like that can make a huge difference,’ said Ms Clark. ‘Meeting the sustainability challenges requires strong business engagement and there is no question in my mind that both present and future investment in inclusive and low-carbon growth will make very good business sense.’
One of the ways in which the UNDP is working towards creating an inclusive and low-carbon future is through collaborating and partnering with governments and businesses around the world. Its Business Call to Action (BCtA) initiative helps promote inclusive business models that spread the benefits of growth more widely. ‘The many international companies that are involved appreciate that what benefits their bottom line can also benefit the local community,’ she said.
Looking forward, Ms Clark spoke on next year’s Rio+20 summit in Brazil: ‘I hope we’ll see the international community come together determined to take action. At the top of priorities must be an agenda for the transition to a cleaner, low-carbon and climate-resilient world economy, which also enables us to generate inclusive growth and eliminate extreme poverty and hunger.’
Ümran Beba, President of global food and beverage giant PepsiCo’s Asia Pacific division, was named 23rd in Fortune magazine’s list of the most powerful women in business in 2010. Since 2006, PepsiCo’s motto has been ‘performance with purpose’. ‘Every corporation has the responsibility to deliver financial returns and growth, but with purpose,’ said Ms Beba. ‘This is no longer just a nice-to-have; it is a must-have.’
PepsiCo is focusing on three key purposes: human sustainability, talent sustainability and environmental sustainability. Under ‘environmental sustainability’, the company has committed to reducing its consumption of water and energy as well as its output of packaging and other waste. In Thailand, for example, PepsiCo’s waste reduction project in its food plant has resulted in potato waste being used for animal feed, cooking oil for biodiesel and washed potato water being sold as starch. With respect to water consumption, the overall target is a 20 per cent reduction by 2015, and indeed some of PepsiCo’s plants have already reduced their usage by up to 50 per cent. Meanwhile in the Philippines, the company is pursuing ‘human sustainability’ by delivering safe drinking water to local communities; by 2015 it aims to reach three million people. ‘Can we go even further and can we reach a positive water position?’ Ms Beba pondered. ‘There is no end to the journey, which is the exciting part. But it comes down to leadership – you have to be committed.’
Of Pepsico’s investments, 15-20 per cent are in the area of productivity and sustainability. The returns on these investments are evaluated in a similar way to growth products; however, as Ms Beba explained, there needs to be ‘more flexibility on the timeline’ to account for the fact that the payback can sometimes be longer. She continued: ‘As you are doing the right thing and as you are getting productivity, I think these investments are the ones you have to seal and stamp and don’t touch. Working in a company where you really care about sustainability is very important and I also see it with the new generation we are recruiting, who are looking for meaning in the workplace. When I see these sustainability projects I feel very proud and I think our employees feel proud too.’
Alex MacGillivray, manager of the global network Climate Business, was pleased with both the sentiments expressed and the pledges made at the summit: ‘The commitments made by the [Indonesian] President in advancing sustainable development and the businesses that are backing the President in delivering these goals are exemplary. It is estimated that the size of the green economy will be a minimum of US$3-5 trillion by 2020. This provides a great opportunity for Asian business.’
One of the key elements touched on throughout the three-day conference was the urgency to address the issues of climate change and sustainability – ‘To not just talk the talk, but walk the talk,’ as Graham Hill, founder of TreeHugger, known as the ‘Green CNN’ and one of the most popular websites devoted to pushing sustainability into the mainstream, so aptly put it. Former US Vice-President Al Gore invoked his favourite African proverb: ‘If you want to go quickly you go alone, if you want to go far you go together.’ Yet to solve the pressing issue of climate change and sustainability we need not only to go far, but also to go quickly.