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Sustainability is the only choice
Thursday,  8/9/2018, 15:17 

Sustainability is the only choice

By Hiep Anh

Mr. Leo Evers, managing director of Heineken Vietnam

A sustainable future for the world as well as for each nation requires unified efforts made by both public and private sectors. In Vietnam amidst the Fourth Industrial Revolution, sustainability has played an increasingly crucial role to the Government, NGOs, associations and businesses.

Last month, the National Conference on Sustainable Development was chaired by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, with the participation of Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam and over 650 representatives from all sectors. The Conference has re-affirmed significant role of the business community in implementing the Vietnam Government’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The Saigon Times Weekly had a discussion with Mr. Leo Evers—HEINEKEN Vietnam Managing Director—on HEINEKEN’s success story shared at the conference on incorporating sustainability to the Company’s core business strategy, enhancing competitiveness and providing long-term socio-economic benefits.

Can you explain briefly why HEINEKEN commits to sustainability and pursuing SDGs? Does it benefit your business in any way or it’s just the right thing to do?

As a business or a nation, we all know it is important to foster growth to ensure a progressive future, but we need to ensure that such economic growth does not come at the cost of the environment or the people.
Although Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, we can see that there are more than 1 million people unemployed in Vietnam, 30% of which are graduates; 37% of Vietnamese still find it culturally acceptable to drink and drive; last but not least, Vietnam is one of the top 5 countries in the world to suffer the worst effects of climate change.

Everyone has many choices in life. The choices we make define who we are. For HEINEKEN Vietnam, sustainability is our only choice. We choose sustainability, by taking care of our People and the Planet to 

 By choosing sustainability, we have achieved major sustainability accomplishments that allow us to take care of our PEOPLE and the PLANET to sustain PROSPERITY for a better Vietnam. Our sustainability efforts focus on six key areas: Advocating Responsible Consumption; Promoting Health and Safety; Protecting Water Resources; Reducing CO2 Emissions; Growing with Communities; Sourcing Sustainably. These focus areas allow us to support eight out of 17 SDGs, where we believe we can contribute the most to the local community in Vietnam.

Mr. Leo Evers HEINEKEN Vietnam Managing Director

create and sustain Prosperity for a better Vietnam.

To give you one example—how we use biomass and the circular economy model: this is not just the right thing to do, it also contributes to Prosperity of our Company as well as the wider community in Vietnam. By sourcing approximately 54,000 tons of rice husk and woodchips from farmers in 2017, we could brew 100% with carbon neutral renewable energy at four out of our six breweries, halve our CO2 emissions compared to using fossil fuel and reduce our fuel cost by approximately 30%. Additionally, this initiative allows us to provide substantial income for Vietnamese farmers and support the development of the biomass energy industry in Vietnam. Furthermore, this initiative helps us implement SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy).

What are the most major impacts of HEINEKEN Vietnam’s sustainability accomplishments?

We have a number of great success stories where taking care of our people and the environment has helped to create positive economic impacts as well. Our sustainability efforts focus on six key areas: Advocating Responsible Consumption; Promoting Health and Safety; Protecting Water Resources; Reducing CO2 Emissions; Growing with Communities; Sourcing Sustainably. These focus areas allow us to support 8 out of 17 SDGs, where we believe we can contribute the most.

To give some examples, we put the health and safety of People as our top priority, investing a great deal in keeping our people safe both at work and also on the road. We pioneered promoting responsible consumption through our brand campaigns, reaching 10 million Heineken & Tiger fans.

We contributed to protect the Planet by increasing our water & energy efficiencies. HEINEKEN Vietnam breweries are the most water efficient across HEINEKEN Asia Pacific Region. 99% of our waste and by-products from production are reused or recycled—creating virtually zero waste from production.

In terms of economic impact and Prosperity, directly through our operations in Vietnam and indirectly through our value chain in Vietnam, we contributed 0.88% of Vietnam’s total GDP and supported 158,000 jobs in 2017.

We will not stop at what we have achieved today; creating an even greater positive impact every year in Vietnam is our goal. We continue to seek the support and cooperation of our stakeholders to do this since we can only brew a better Vietnam by doing it together!

Does HEINEKEN Vietnam face any challenges when choosing Sustainability as part of your core business strategy?

One of the biggest challenges is awareness amongst our key stakeholders. We also face some challenges in terms of increasing our renewable electricity mix, where improvements are required to existing infrastructure and the regulatory framework to enable this. The sooner we can get the right regulatory framework in place, supported by the right infrastructure, and commitment from relevant private sector partners, then we will see a significant acceleration in terms of renewable electricity in Vietnam.

With that being said, the great news is that sustainability has received great attention and support in recent years, from the local community and especially the Government of Vietnam, as you can conclude from the above mentioned National Conference being chaired by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, with the participation of Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam and over 650 representatives.

Beyond the business community, the positive response we have received for our #WeChooseGreen social campaign on Facebook also demonstrates how the wider community in Vietnam has become much more sustainably-conscious compared to a few years ago. There is so much more to be done to achieve a sustainable future for Vietnam. However, with this great social momentum, we believe that together, we can brew a better Vietnam. 

As a pioneer in sustainable development in Vietnam, what recommendations does HEINEKEN Vietnam offer to other members of the business community to further advance sustainability progress and the implementation of SDGs in Vietnam?

Many organizations still think that sustainability requires a large budget that only multi-national companies can afford, whereas in reality sustainability is all about intent and commitment (as well as finding innovative solutions).

As mentioned above about our biomass and circular economy model, where we implemented SDG 7 and switched from using diesel boilers to power our breweries to using clean biomass energy. This initiative helps us increase our mix of renewable energy, while at the same time reduces our costs and generates additional income for rice farmers from whom we buy rice husks. In addition, it has reduced our carbon emissions by more than 50% over the last few years. This is a great example of how choosing sustainability and pursuing the SDGs has actually benefited and increased our competitiveness as a company as well as supported the environment and our community.

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