Dutch-Asean initiative to promote sustainability

Mr Steve Foong (with microphone) and his teammates, (seated, from left) Ms Yuliana Sukarmawati, Ms Hannah de Valk, and Ms Toh Hui Ran, who were presenting a solution for AkzoNobel, at the Orange Factory workshop yesterday.
Mr Steve Foong (with microphone) and his teammates, (seated, from left) Ms Yuliana Sukarmawati, Ms Hannah de Valk, and Ms Toh Hui Ran, who were presenting a solution for AkzoNobel, at the Orange Factory workshop yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

A Dutch initiative to promote sustainability has just ended its first foray into Singapore - with a potent message that businesses can make money using green practices.

Orange Asean is a joint effort of the Dutch government, Dutch companies and non-governmental organisations to bring sustainability into Asian economies.

A three-week Orange Factory workshop here ended yesterday.

Twenty-four young Dutch and South-east Asian students and professionals presented their solutions to six Dutch firms yesterday at the workshop's final day at the Unilever Foundry, attended by 120 people.

"We are strong believers that (incorporating) sustainability in business is a profitable combination," said the Netherlands Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Jacques Werner.

The six companies were: AkzoNobel, CKade, DSM, DSM-Naiga, Heineken and Unilever.

Other corporate partners of the initiative include Shell, RaboBank and dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina.

"A number of large Dutch companies have been making profits with sustainability," Mr Werner added. "When you are more efficient with your resources, it leads to savings."

Workshops were held last year in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, with another in Jakarta in October.

Participants were drawn from backgrounds ranging from business to the social sciences, as this could help them form more holistic solutions to business problems.

"Young people think more sustainably," said Mr Werner. "We want them to consider becoming sustainable entrepreneurs, or business developers for their companies later on."

Singapore undergraduate Toh Hui Ran, 23, joined a team of three in designing a solution for AkzoNobel to encourage sustainability in the shipping and maritime sector here. Their final solution paired AkzoNobel with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), as WWF programmes could help AkzoNobel use its resources.

Ms Toh, who has an undergraduate degree in environmental studies from Yale-NUS College, said that the research skills she gained in her degree helped her to understand the needs of her clients.

"Understanding what the client wants is really hard because it can be very multi-dimensional," she said. "Learning about what companies need and want was very interesting, because you keep getting insights from insiders."

The organisers of the initiative plan to reach out to more South-east Asian and smaller firms in future workshops.

Mr Werner said: "The business case for sustainability is already there. The thing is how to get sustainability ingrained into the boardrooms of Asia."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Dutch-Asean initiative to promote sustainability'. Print Edition | Subscribe