Asean’s Vision 2020 calls for a clean and green Asean with fully established mechanisms to ensure the protection of the environment, sustainability of natural resources, and high quality of life for people in the region, Le Luong Minh, secretary-general of Asean, said.

He told the seminar last week, the Asean Sustainable Development Symposium 2014 – conducted by the SCG Group – was consistent with the Asean Vision 2020’s theme of “Green Asean” in 2009 that reflected a three-pronged challenge facing the region.

The first was building an environmentally sustainable clean and green Asean Community; the second transformed the “green shoots” of growth in the face of the 2008 global financial crisis into an economically resilient Asean anchored on green growth; and the third was the nurturing of a new Asean to be a people-centred organisation respecting and living in harmony with nature.

To realise this, a roadmap for an Asean Community (2009 – 2015) lays out goals, strategies and actions – based on sustainable development through the three community pillars and the Initiative for Asean Integration.

Asean is now working on several fronts to show its commitment to promoting green development. It has developed a set of key indicators for clean air, clean water, and clean land that have been used for selection of the Asean Environmentally Sustainable Cities Award since 2008. The award aims to showcase and promote outstanding efforts of these cities, and will work on initiatives such as a low carbon society, compact cities, eco-cities and environmentally sustainable transport.

Asean is also actively engaged in ensuring sustainable production and consumption through promotion of environmentally sound technology and cleaner production processes. In a 2013 joint statement, the member states recognised that additional policy support as well as on-going public and private sector investments on technical skills and institutional competencies were needed.

Asean has joined efforts addressing global environmental challenges, including developing and adapting environmentally-sound technologies. Knowing that manufacturing industries account for a significant part of the consumption of resources and generation of waste in the region, Asean member states have embarked on cleaner production as well as energy efficiency initiatives, including the manufacturing sector .

Several Asean member states have also implemented eco-labelling schemes to encourage sustainable production. Driven by stricter environmental regulations and acceptance of larger environmental responsibilities, manufacturing industries have the potential to become a driving force for the creation of a more sustainable region.

Asean is also actively engaged in various initiatives and activities to promote sustainable development. The Asean Environment Year (AEY) is held every three years to raise people’s awareness and to strengthen regional cooperation and implementation of action on environmental conservation. The Asean Environmental Education Inventory Database (AEEID) is an interactive online resource for networking, collaboration, and information exchange. The Asean Youth Portal on Sustainable Development was also established to enable young people to exchange information and share experiences as well as post blogs and photos on sustainable development issues. The Asean state of environment report is published every three years to offer a glimpse of the prospects and challenges facing the region and highlights Asean efforts to protect the environment and promote sustainable development.

Meanwhile, this year, Asean initiated the process for its Post-2015 Vision, as part of its determination to shape a bold and forward-looking future for Asean. While discussions are still on-going in all three community pillars, there have been suggestions put forward that seek to address the region’s sustainable development challenges. These include:

continuing to promote inclusive, sustained and equitable economic growth and sustainable development, consistent with the UN Post- 2015 development agenda. Asean should consider crafting clear and measureable development goals to serve as an internal benchmark for key socio-economic issues in the region.

The path to a green Asean community has not been and is not going to be smooth. The globalising world is driven by rapid technological progress, intense economic competition and the unsustainable consumption of natural resources which are realities Asean has to face.

As a grouping of developing nations, with about 185 million people in Asean still earning less than US$2 (Bt66) a day, economic growth and social development shall remain a priority.

Asean must also continue to vigorously pursue its sustainable development framework. Efforts to alleviate poverty, providing adequate shelter and food, boosting national economies should go hand in hand with protecting the environment.

For next year and more to come, Asean will need to confront and address these challenges. It is important the network strives to find a balance between economic development and sustainable environment that meets current and future needs. We hope that through our efforts to build a politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible, people-centred and people-oriented Asean Community, we are also building a community not only for the present but for future generations of Asean peoples, he said.

SCG Group’s president and CEO Kan Trakulhoon added that the group’s business also aimed to be a part of a sustainable development in Asean through the concept of clean industry.

“We provide knowledge for sustainable development to our supply chain and small and medium enterprises in Thailand and overseas, to expand our investments. We believe we cannot do this alone. All industry and related parties must collaborate to achieve the power to change,” he said.

Sustainable development is essential for all businesses, through the synergy of related parties in the economy, society, and environment areas which must advance together. This is the theme to drive group business in the next century, he said. –Somluck Srimalee, The Nation