The sufficiency economy philosophy could be the key to achieving a healthy environmental, social and governance climate in the corporate sector, according to Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, president and CEO of Thai Beverage Plc (ThaiBev).
Speaking on Wednesday at the Bangkok Post ESG Conference 2023, Mr Thapana gave a presentation titled “The Importance of ESG in Corporate Sustainability”.
He explained how ESG can enable sustainable growth, citing how the United Nations launched its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2016 as a series of roadmaps and targets for everyone to achieve. In 2020 it declared a “decade of action” to achieve the goals by its 2030 deadline.
“We are talking about (a) decade of action. But what we have been experiencing over the past few years is that there have been situations where people are suffering from warfare or international conflicts,” said Mr Thapana.
“If we are looking at the progress of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, there are some that have revealed no progress such as (eradicating) poverty, (universal) good health and well being, quality education and decent work and economic growth,” he said.
Mr Thapana said environmental problems — such as the 1.5C increase in global temperatures from pre-industrial times, which has caused sea levels to rise — have affected businesses and consumers due to a shift in the availability of natural resources.
As such, it is necessary for businesses to have both SDGs and ESG as goals, he said.
To achieve these two major goals, he advocated embracing the sufficiency economy principles initiated by the late HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great. Under this philosophy, moderation, reasonableness and self-immunity are the key principles needed to live a self-sufficient and sustainable life.
“SDGs are broader and wider and require all of us to come together, and we can see the commonality in what we would like to achieve, while becoming more efficient and still existing to be more competitive in this world,” Mr Thapana said.
He drew attention to how the 2023 Sustainability Yearbook by S&P Global stated that 12 Thai companies including ThaiBev were Gold Class, the most of any country in this category. This shows the improved quality of Thai businesses compared to their industry competitors around the world, he added.
“I believe they are practising and following in the footsteps of King Rama IX,” he said.
ThaiBev has committed to pursuing ESG by working with organisations like the Chaipattana Foundation and Mae Fah Luang Foundation, he noted.
Furthermore, to give all stakeholders and the general public a platform to learn more about sustainable growth by incorporating the sufficiency economy model, ThaiBev and its partners organised the Sustainability Expo 2022 (SX2022) at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center last year. It drew 277,023 visitors and 169 participating organisations.
“We will stage SX2023 by the first week of October this year,” Mr Thapana added.
ThaiBev has also committed to achieve its net zero target by 2040. As part of this goal, it aims to achieve 50% renewable energy consumption by 2030, reduce water usage by 5% by 2025, and replenish 100% of the water used on its finished goods by 2040.
“If you were to ask me, ‘How do you see [ESG] and which one would you say you are the most critical of?’, I would go for ‘G’, or governance and growth,” he said.
“In the wake of the pandemic, I’m sure that corporate rules need to be further developed. This is of critical importance, along with how will we arrange a good business plan and make changes this year. Practically all consumers are becoming more demanding,” Mr Thapana said.
“We are not adapting fast enough in terms of how we respond to the needs of all consumers and businesses.
“So, governance will probably be the key. And when we look at ESG, it is definitely a key term for all corporates to embrace together moving forward in search of a better future, because we only have one world to live in, and whether we like it or not, we should come together to join hands to create a better world for us all to live in."