As Asia’s premier regional economic hub and home to the largest amount of American foreign direct investment in Asia, US companies are increasingly investing in areas such as waste management, women’s economic empowerment and supporting energy transition initiatives as they expand their commercial activities in this highly competitive region.
For the region to fully reach its economic potential, the report posits that the key to sustainable development is for the countries to work together in an ASEAN bloc and for the governments to form new alliances among different stakeholders – large and small, public and private, local and multinational. In line with the BCG model and to promote sustainable economic development, Thailand has prioritised electricity generation from biomass, explored food waste valorisation alternatives, and expanded the wastewater network through infrastructure projects and technical capacity building; therefore, there is an abundance of opportunity for collaboration in the public and private space towards building a sustainable and economically successful future for Thailand.”
Deloitte’s new report, “Southeast Asia Sustainability Ambitions 2022”, outlines the sustainability challenges faced by countries in Southeast Asia and the ambitions of the governments to address these challenges.
Overview of Southeast Asia
Accordingly to the methodology, the Current Progress of each Southeast Asia country analysed in the report has been scored based on their performance on internationally-recognised indices.
Climate change is a critical and multi-faceted challenge that touches on issues like biodiversity, water, waste, and gender equality.
Whether there are monitoring and enforcing mechanisms in place
Whether the needs of vulnerable groups (women, children, minorities, low-income) are catered for
Whether developments are based on evidence-based plans
Whether there have been investments or budgets allocated towards the targets
Deep dive into Thailand
With ambitions to create a Bio-Circular-Green economy, Thailand performs well across all five aspects.
Mr Kasiti Ketsuriyonk, Sustainability & Climate Leader, Deloitte Thailand, added “Thailand’s Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) model highlights the opportunities for private and public sectors to work together to achieve Thailand’s commitment to a net-zero economy.
In a collaboration between Deloitte Center for the Edge and the US-ASEAN Business Council, the report focuses on in-depth insights on Southeast Asian nations into five key aspects of sustainability selected by US-ASEAN Business Council members – Energy & Climate, Biodiversity, Water, Waste and Gender Equality.
Present challenges to the country’s development are urbanisation and climate change. We have started to see various multi-stakeholder initiatives to drive the BCG agenda towards a low-carbon economy, but we will need more investment and a strengthened ecosystem for both economic and technology solution development, to ensure we are on track in our decarbonisation journey. Whether there have been efforts to raise awareness about a given target
On Energy & Climate, the region has done well to ensure the availability of electricity for its 660 million population, with countries scoring 4 or 5 out of 5.
The report provides an overview of Southeast Asia and features a detailed analysis of nine countries including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Management of Water Resources and Waste remains an uphill task for some countries. If ASEAN governments act decisively on climate commitments, work in concert with the private sector, and mobilise ground action to tackle the climate and sustainability issues. With a significant proportion of the population living in rural areas, persistent challenges remain, like the provision of water services and the efficient management of municipal waste. Whether or not these ambitions will be achieved depends on 5 Implementation Factors identified in the report:
Empowering the labour force is crucial while the country transitions from a developing to a developed one, a goal that the Thai government calls ‘Thailand 4.0’.
Mr Duleesha Kulasooriya, Managing Director, Center for the Edge, Deloitte Southeast Asia, added “Countries in Southeast Asia, due to geographical location and developing natural ecosystem, are more vulnerable to climate change than the rest of Asia Pacific.
The region is endowed with rich natural capital, comprising four Biodiversity hotspots.
Urbanisation in Thailand is largely led by the capital, Bangkok, which accounts for over 80 percent of the total urban area in Thailand. Public-private partnerships will be key in helping ASEAN meet these challenges”, said Mr Drew Hasson, Director (Sustainability) of the US-ASEAN Business Council. The countries’ Targets and Commitments were then measured against globally recognised targets, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Where Gender Equality is concerned, much progress has been made to end all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices. In 2020, slightly over 50 percent of the population live in urban areas, and the country has been facing a decreasing rate of urbanisation over the past decade. This being said, food waste is an emerging issue that governments across the region are only starting to tackle in a more targeted manner.
Better access to employment opportunities and increased support would increase the labour force participation rate of women, which was at 59 percent in 2021. Big gaps between current progress and targets exist across all the countries analysed in terms of conserving oceans, inland ecosystems and forests. There have also been improvements in providing equal opportunities and empowerment in education, health and economic spheres, although political representation continues to be low.
Thailand has a comprehensive 20-Year National Strategy (2018-2037), into which the 17 UN SDGs are incorporated. The outlook of Thailand’s economic competitiveness will be dependent on its Bio-Circular-Green Economy, Thailand’s recent orientation towards environmentally conscious practices, policies, and industries. It can serve as a one-stop resource for multinational companies and investors to identify areas where sustainability efforts may make the largest impact.
However, maintaining this in face of massive growth in energy demand over the next 2 decades, and doing so while meeting decarbonisation targets, represents a significant challenge. The country is also located in one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, with itself having one of the world’s highest biodiversity per unit area. However, opportunities abound to address the region’s different challenges. Climate change presents extreme weather patterns, which exacerbate and compound these challenges.
However, urgent steps need to be taken to find sustainable growth paths that do not come at the expense of biodiversity. The country also remains committed to implementing its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
These represent the sustainability ambitions of the countries.
Written By: Supaporn Pholrach (Joom)