Thailand’s BCG Approach is a Whole-of-Society Endeavor

Nawacha Satthapiyakun

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As host economy for APEC 2022, one of Thailand’s key priorities has been to advance a balanced approach to sustainable development among APEC economies.

Discussions of the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economic Model have received renewed attention in Thailand after the COVID-19 crisis exposed vulnerabilities in its tourism- and export-dependent economy, while stretching thin its social safety nets.

At the International Academic Forum and fifth APEC Media Focus (AMF) Group on “APEC and Business Sustainability” held in mid-July at Mahidol University, academics, senior policymakers, and private sector representatives shared their views on how Thailand and other APEC economies can transition their industries for inclusive and sustainable growth.

The Nan Sandbox

Session one speakers at the International Academic Forum and fifth APEC Media Focus Group at Mahidol University
From left to right: Gloyta Nathalang, Executive Vice President Corporate Sustainability, Branding and Communication, Bangchak Corporation Public Company Limited; Prinat Apirat, Deputy Director-General, Department of International Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Prof. Piyamitr Sritara, Dean, Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University; Dr. Janekrishna Kanatharana, Vice President and Executive Director, Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation (EECi), National Science and Technology Development Agency; Tanee Sangrat, Director-General, Department of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (moderator).

During the academic forum’s first session, “BCG Economy in Thailand and Business Sustainability,” Prof. Piyamitr Sritara, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital at Mahidol University, highlighted the Nan Sandbox as a model in implementation of the BCG Economy Model.

The northern Thai province of Nan has long struggled with forest clearing for agriculture. Banthoon Lamsam, Chairman Emeritus of Kasikornbank PCL, was granted permits from the Thai government to tackle deforestation under the Nan Sandbox initiative.

With support from the public sector, entrepreneurs, university researchers, and the Nan people, mature trees were replanted in deforested areas surrounded by shade-tolerant plants, including high-value medicinal herbs like fingerroot (Boesenbergia rotunda) and turmeric. The pivot from conventional plantations to agroforestry has given Nan farmers a way to earn a living without sacrificing the environment.

The Nan Sandbox has become a case study for how the private sector, working with local communities and authorities, can implement the BCG approach to create a more sustainable value chain that benefits people, planet, and profits.

Transitioning to sustainability

The Executive Vice President of Bangchak Corporation PCL, Gloyta Nathalang
The Executive Vice President of Bangchak Corporation PCL, Gloyta Nathalang.

Similar to the Nan Sandbox, Bangchak Corporation PCL has been pivoting away from an unsustainable business model and has identified nine Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the energy conglomerate will address through its business diversification.

Executive Vice President Gloyta Nathalang stated that Bangchak aims to become carbon neutral in 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions in 2050. To this end, it supports an e-motorcycle rental service it calls “Winnonie” and funds scientific studies by Kasetsart University into seagrass meadows, which are reportedly eight times more efficient per rai (0.16 hectares) at sequestering carbon than forests.

Meanwhile, the corporation is proactively transitioning to clean energy production and storage and fostering a “net zero ecosystem” to reduce waste and carbon emissions at its various business units. For example, its cafe unit, Inthanin Coffee, relies entirely on sustainable biodegradable packaging and bioplastics.

The Bangkok Goals

Prinat Apirat, Deputy Director-General, Department of International Economic Affairs, said, “There’s a lot of potential for Thailand and Thai companies to work on sustainability and push it further as the host of APEC 2022.”

As part of its deliverables for its APEC host year, Thailand aims to rally member economies around “The Bangkok Goals on the BCG Economy” to advance the regional forum’s sustainability agenda. By emphasizing a “whole-of-society” and “whole-of-APEC-system approach,” Thailand hopes to lay the groundwork for achieving the following:

  • Climate action, including net-zero greenhouse gas emissions
  • Sustainable trade and investment
  • Sustainable management of resources and conservation of the environment and biodiversity
  • Resource efficiency and sustainable waste management
The ambassador of the Philippines to Thailand and Permanent Representative of UNESCAP in Thailand, H.E. Milicent Cruz Paredes
The ambassador of the Philippines to Thailand and Permanent Representative of UNESCAP in Thailand, H.E. Milicent Cruz Paredes.

H.E. Milicent Cruz Paredes, Ambassador of the Philippines to Thailand and Permanent Representative of UNESCAP in Thailand, was among the participants of the International Academic Forum and fifth AMF. She offered high praise for Thailand and its message for other APEC economies like the Philippines.

“What I saw today was very impressive. It gave a clear message and strategy for Thailand in terms of how it intends to recover from the pandemic and how it intends to address the economic challenges of Thailand and the rest of the world.”

The Philippine ambassador singled out the Nan Sandbox as one of the most tangible examples of multi-sectoral collaboration, with practical application in other countries.

“What’s striking was the example of the Nan Sandbox,” Paredes said, “because it projects the same challenges that are confronting our own farmers in the Philippines and the possible ways to move forward.”

The APEC Economic Leaders’ Week (AELW) from November 14th–19th, 2022 marks the end of APEC 2022 Thailand. The United States will take over hosting duties for APEC 2023.

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Nawacha Satthapiyakun

Nawacha, or Nat, serves as Digital Marketing Assistant at Bangkok-based digital marketing agency PAPER & PAGE (Thailand) Co., Ltd. Having graduated from Monash University and lived abroad for several years, her passion lies in multiculturalism, both at the national and community levels.

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