Sustainability is a key component of corporate social responsibility, and both businesses and the Royal Government of Cambodia are moving towards a more environmentally-friendly future.
Green businesses are an exercise in profit and an investment in social and environmental capital. They require an acute sense of awareness and an understanding of impact. Companies must look out for their bottom line and the greater good, taking into effect how their conduct and policies could potentially alter their social and environmental landscape for better or worse.
When effective, they minimize the negative impacts of industry on the environment, community and society; from managing waste and reducing emissions to implementing cost-saving, energy efficient practices. They also present a unique set of challenges for international industry in the Kingdom.
“When European businesses operate in Cambodia they usually bring with them a set of guidelines that they must incorporate – but it’s not always easy in a country like Cambodia to remain compliant.”
Enter the Green Biz Committee, says chairwoman Dr. Romina de Jong, an advocacy initiative created by the European Chamber of Commerce to establish an open dialogue between its council of sustainable business owners and the nation’s policymakers.
“For instance, you have [European] guidelines on your waste treatment, but there is literally no solid waste incinerator in Cambodia. So these companies have waste that just piles up and piles up and they have nowhere to bring it.”
As their waste grows business owners are locked in a struggle to remain compliant. Ultimately, they are forced to export their trash outside of the country – an expensive task that could be seen as unfavorable to foreign investors. “This is not an easy way to run your business. Bringing forth problems like this to the Royal Government of Cambodia is one of the things Green Biz tries to do,” says the chairwoman.
As a forum, committee members discuss common issues and challenges hindering their businesses’ sustainable growth. These issues are then presented to members of the Cambodian government in the form of policy suggestions. In March of last year the committee presented its first White Book to members of government with the aim of raising awareness of green business practices and drawing attention to issues it believed required urgent revision.
Among their suggestions were more investment in renewable energy practices and the formation of a national green building council that could provide guidelines on sustainable construction and job safety. According to Dr. De Jong, both have garnered some attention from relevant authorities; a green building council is being considered and a precedent was established as renewable energies were, for the first time, explicitly mentioned in policy. The government is soliciting bids for private sector proposals on a 10 megawatt solar plant in Bavet.
“The potential benefits of adopting green initiatives for both European businesses and the country of Cambodia are great. If the work of the committee is successful, then the Cambodian economy grows and more labor opportunities are provided. It also opens the country up to [foreign] businesses that are actually concerned about [their responsibility] to the people and environment of Cambodia,” explains the chairwoman.