Sustainability issues and environmental, social and governance (ESG) were stressed at the Bangkok Post ESG Conference 2023 held on Wednesday.
Themed “ESG: The Power to Build a Better Future”, the conference highlighted the significance of ESG and sustainability in promoting sustainable growth for businesses while keeping communities and the environment in mind.
Conference speakers were Banthoon Lamsam, chairman emeritus of Kasikornbank Plc; Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, president and CEO of Thai Beverage Plc; Tan Choon Hin, president and CEO of UOB Thailand; Aloke Lohia, group CEO of Indorama Ventures Plc; and Masao Tsutsumi, vice-president for for marketing, sales, aftersales and dealer network development of Nissan Motor Thailand.
According to the speakers, ESG is increasingly recognised as a critical driver of long-term value and sustainability, and its influence is expected to continue growing.
From a social perspective, ESG initiatives contribute to the betterment of communities through sustainable development projects that generate income opportunities and enhance residents’ quality of life.
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In his presentation, Mr Banthoon highlighted challenges in a social project in Nan province that is a model of sustainable development.
The project’s original aim was to conserve watershed forest, but its objectives extended to improving people’s lives, he said.
As a headwater, the forest in Nan accounts for around 40% of the water in the Chao Phraya River. Nan has a total area of 7.6 million rai (1.2 million hectares), of which 6.43 million rai (1 million ha) are reserved forest under the National Forest Reserve Act.
However, 28% of the forest reserve area or around 1.87 million rai is subject to deforestation, which has reduced the remaining forest reserve area of 4.56 million rai.
“Most people clear forests for corn farming. We had lost 28% of the first-class water-source forest, which is 1.8 million rai. So, the solution is to find a substitution that lies under 100 trees per rai for all to survive. The victory belongs to everyone in the end,” Mr Banthoon said.
Given the forest reserve status of Nan’s forest lands, people are prohibited to cut down trees and destroy the land. Many people are living illegally on the land.
Many communities have lived off the land for hundreds of years, and in more modern times, many began to farm corn. As capitalism developed, locals were offered seeds, fertilisers and loans. In time, more land was cleared to grow more corn. When pictures of Nan’s bald, cleared mountains started appearing in the media, many people realised how inadequately environmental problems were being treated, said Mr Banthoon.
The path of capitalism is to do something for a living, but in this case, it has harmed the forest, which needs to be protected, he said.
The government should allocate land to people properly to help solve the problem, he said. Importantly, collaboration between people and the state sector is also needed.
“We have to find solutions allowing both the forest and people to live together,” Mr Banthoon said.