Businesses and Governments agreed on urgency to tackle SDG’s at Responsible Business Forum

As the second day drew to a close at the Responsible Business Forum for Sustainable Development (RBF), over 750 business leaders, government representatives and NGO’s convened to share solutions and tackle the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS’s); including climate action, partnerships, life below water, life on land, responsible consumption and production and peace, justice and strong institutions. Other issues discussed during the second day of RBF included a session on how the circular economy could contribute to delivering the SDG’s.
Presenting the opening address today of RBF, Michelle Yeoh, UN Goodwill Ambassador for Gender Equality, gave a strong call to action to attendees on the importance of the SDG’s “The success of the SDGS depends on many actors coming together to save the world! We must leave no one behind.”

Fokko Wientjes, VP Nutrition in Emerging Markets, DSM commented on the importance of partnerships between the public and private sector “It’s extremely important to understand each other, we need to be able to see things from a different perspective. We need to have a shared goal.” Lucita Jasmin, Director of Sustainability at APRIL Group added “We need to embrace the concept of shared value creation.”

The session on climate action looked at how climate change could be addressed swiftly while continuing to grow economies, how government and business leaders are addressing the challenges of moving to a low-carbon economy in APAC and how to move forward with urgent climate change action.

Erin Meezan, Chief Sustainability Officer, Interface, outlined their new mission known as ‘Climate Take Back’ which is focused on creating a path for Interface to reverse global warming, not just reduce carbon emissions. One of their key initiatives involves the transformation of old fishing nets into carpets. Commenting on the issue Erin said “Urgent action is needed to combat climate change. For 20 years we’ve been talking about carbon reductions, we need a new level of ambition and a new goal” she also noted later in the session that “Going beyond recyclable materials is not enough.”

Chris Dharmakirti, Executive Director, President’s Office, Sri Lanka, noted that governments are also at fault on climate change, saying “Governments are a huge carbon footprint culprit.” Sri Lanka has introduced new measures to try and combat climate change, as a proactive response to the Paris Climate accord, including conducting a multi-sectoral low carbon economy study known as “Sri Lanka Next”. The government has launched a poison free initiative which bans farmers from using agro chemicals on their crops, thereby helping them to restore their soil.

Andrew Morlet, CEO of Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Mark Cliffe, Chief Economist, ING Group and Roelof Westerbeek, President of Amcor Flexibles, Asia Pacific and Peter Wong, President of Dow Asia Pacific gathered in an afternoon session at Responsible Business Forum to discuss how the circular economy can contribute to delivering the SDG’s. The circular economy presents a new form of economic opportunity and growth that moves away from current linear extractive and consumptive patterns, characterised by chronic waste and negative externalities, towards a system that is restorative and regenerative by design. In addition to delivering direct economic and societal benefits, the circular economy also dramatically lowers energy and water demands of the system, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and reduces many other externalities, while at the same time preserving stock of finite materials and building natural capital.

Roelof Westerbeek, President of Amcor Flexibles, Asia Pacific identified one of the key issues with circular economy “The problem is that raw materials are so cheap. There are no real incentives to recycle.” He also noted “There needs to be a holistic approach throughout the value chains.” and Peter Dow, President of Dow Asia Pacific wrapped up the session noting “The day of treating sustainability as a separate function is over.”

RBF was Asia’s first zero waste, zero emissions event for over 750 delegates and will be audited on all its sustainability efforts including the zero-waste to landfill, zero emission targets and certified by SACEOS (Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers) on its Management Approach, Waste, Energy, Water, Community, Human Resources with the MICE Sustainability Certification (MSC), an initiative by supported by the Singapore Tourism Board’s Sustainable Event Guidelines. RBF will publish its sustainability impact statement that captures the event’s sustainability highlights and tracked usage data report in about a month.