Timely forum on sustainable development

A construction site in Palangkaraya, one of the cities worst-hit by haze in central Kalimantan province. The Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development includes discussions on responsible forestry and agriculture.
A construction site in Palangkaraya, one of the cities worst-hit by haze in central Kalimantan province. The Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development includes discussions on responsible forestry and agriculture.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Next week's event, featuring business leaders and govt officials, comes amid haze in region

The haze problem is a stark reminder that complex, long-term environmental issues cannot be solved by any one party alone.

A forum to be held next week aims to spark a much-needed discussion among government officials, business leaders and the civil society on how to tackle such problems together.

"Historically, that kind of collaboration hasn't been there, but now, with the haze issue on our doorstep, it's very clear that there's a more urgent need than ever before for that kind of increased multi-stakeholder collaborative approach," said Mr Tony Gourlay, the chief executive of Global Initiatives, which is organising the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development.

The forum will feature panel discussions on topics such as how financial institutions can drive sustainable development, how to build smart cities and the implications of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) launched by the United Nations last month.

The SDG are a set of principles that countries can adopt to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

The forum will also feature timely discussions on responsible forestry and agriculture.

Speakers include business leaders from companies such as Maersk, DHL and StarHub and government officials from environment ministries across the region.

They include Mr Rachmat Witoelar, the Indonesian President's special envoy on climate change, and Ms Nur Masripatin, the director-general of climate change control at the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry.

"We're advising the people on stage to be ready to be challenged by not just the people in the audience but also the people sitting on the panels with them, especially because of the level of the haze," Mr Gourlay said.

He noted that since the annual forum began in 2012, discussions have evolved and become more rigorous, with participants moving away from discussing big-picture concepts, such as corporate social responsibility, and talking more about the nuts and bolts of what needs to be done to build sustainable businesses and cities.

The forum will also include the Sustainable Business Awards ceremony, which will recognise excellence in business sustainability efforts made by companies with operations in Singapore.

There are awards for 10 categories, such as energy management, water management and business responsibility and ethics, as well as one overall winner.

The winners last year included Singtel, Heineken Asia Pacific and Keppel Land, while Unilever Asia was crowned the overall winner.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2015, with the headline 'Timely forum on sustainable development'. Print Edition | Subscribe