As the old adage goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.” Unfortunately, humanity has spent much longer than 20 years doing the exact opposite of planting trees, and many of our environmental crises can be traced back to how we take from and use the planet.
In direct response to the unsustainability of traditional economic practices, Thailand is adopting the Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) concept as a new approach to business and commerce that prioritizes the natural world and aims towards sustainability.
Putting BCG into practice, the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) under the Ministry of Commerce initiated the “Be the ChanGe” campaign, finding and promoting Thai businesses that exemplify the practices and aspirations of the Bio-Circular-Green Economy.
With 50 “BCG Heroes” found, the campaign is now showing companies and consumers across the world that sustainable commerce is possible and that it must start now.
A different, more sustainable business model
In their paper, “Unsustainable business models – Recognizing and resolving institutionalized social and environmental harm,” Nancy Bocken and Samuel W. Short identified nine dominant unsustainable business model archetypes. Their list includes environmental resource exploitation and waste, unhealthy or unsustainable offering, quantity over quality and value, and short-term shareholder rather than stakeholder value.
Finding consonance with the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy of His Majesty King Rama IX, Thailand’s application of the Bio-Circular-Green Economy concept seeks to counteract such models. The BCG concept envisions a new paradigm for the economy that places sustainability and harmony with the environment as its top priority. The three elements are as follows:
- The Bio portion of the concept seeks to have producers rely on sustainable technologies and processes to utilize natural resources.
- The Circular part of the philosophy focuses on renewable products and processes but also extends to upcycling and recycling of products, the reduction of materials and waste overall, increasing the usefulness of products and ultimately achieving an economy that is self-sustaining between production and consumption.
- Under the Green thrust, members of the BCG economy are to be energy-efficient, minimize pollutants, hazardous chemical use, and waste production, practice organic methods of material production, and work hand-in-hand with their surrounding communities to foster sustainability.
It’s important to note that BCG is not about sacrificing business progress for environmentalism, but rather achieving greater success through sustainability, as the “BCG model places emphasis on applying science, technology and innovation to turn Thailand’s comparative advantage in biological and cultural diversity into competitive advantage.”
Being the change
From a call by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit to use BCG to meet global commerce trends, the DITP created “Be the ChanGe.” At the heart of the program is 50 “BCG Heroes”—brands and companies chosen for their incorporation of BCG into their business models.
Brands and companies were evaluated based on their use of waste materials, the value they brought to biomaterials, whether or not their production processes are eco-friendly, and their effective utilization of natural resources.
Thailand’s BCG Heroes span furniture and home decorations, fashion, fabric, and accessories to wellness and lifestyle goods.
Among them are 103PAPER SHOP, which has since its inception sought to combine the beauty of natural materials with waste materials. Collaborating with academics and only practicing handcrafts, the brand manufactures sustainable and modern decorative pieces that also help to remove waste from the environment.
Furniture maker Deesawat has been finding ways to revolutionize how large trees are utilized for over 50 years. The company’s furnishings are made in a zero-waste process that aligns completely with the circular concept of BCG.
In the home décor space, TRC makes long-lasting polished stone pieces. Coupled with their use of debris to make molds, the brand is reducing waste by delivering products with an extensive life.
The first “Hero List” was provided by the Ministry of Commerce to penetrate international markets and establish an image for Thailand as a green economy.
With an aim to have BCG products and services account for 24 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product or THB4.4 trillion within five years, the DITP is working fast to find more BCG Heroes and introduce them to markets that have prioritized environmentalism, such as Europe, Australia, and South Korea.
Local action, global impact
Be the ChanGE is just one example of how BCG is being promoted by the Thai government, which has devoted a THB41 billion budget to actualizing the new approach to economics by 2027 and made it a national agenda.
Thailand is even looking to have BCG adopted beyond its borders, elaborating this aspiration at the First APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting of 2022, where it proposed the Bangkok Goals on BCG Economy, founded on an intention to accelerate APEC’s sustainability agenda.
The Kingdom’s implementation of BCG is in line with a global trend to replace unsustainable economics in the hopes of reversing environmental damage.
The European Union’s Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy is seeking to have private investment flows aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The strategy’s main action is directing financing to sustainable innovations and enterprises, effectively transitioning Europe’s economy into one that is sustainable.
Similarly, in 2020, the Japanese government announced its “Green Growth Strategy” aimed at creating a “virtuous cycle of economy and environment.” The notably industrial-based policy has the ultimate goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and, much like BCG, is about supporting businesses to adopt environmental methods.
The only way forward
The BCG model is Thailand’s response to global challenges from climate change to income inequality, and the Be the ChanGe program is the nation’s declaration of belief that they can be overcome.
With the fate of the planet and all humanity at stake, the importance of BCG and its counterparts worldwide cannot be understated. Businesses and economies that resist adoption of bio, circular, and green approaches risk their obsolescence in the short term and contributing to global calamity in the longer term.
BCG proposes a way to reverse what could soon become irreversible.