Together with the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Universal Robina Corporation (URC), CSR Asia, a regional sustainability consultancy, organized the third session of the Responsible Agribusiness Roundtable series in Ho Chi Minh City on 12 March 2018.
The event was attended by more than 30 business leaders and inclusive business professionals from over 25 companies and organizations, who discussed opportunities for local agribusiness to engage with smallholder farmers, adopt inclusive and gender smart business models and better align their business with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The roundtable series was developed by CSR Asia for GRAISEA (Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in South East Asia), a regional development program funded by the Government of Sweden and implemented by Oxfam. It aims to promote solutions that help improve the livelihoods of small-scale producers through more responsible and inclusive value chains and private sector investments, and to empower women to demonstrate economic leadership.
“We are proud to support and co-organise this event, which provides stakeholders in the agribusiness sector a platform to discuss opportunities for collaboration on their shared goals,” said Laurent Levan, President and General Director of URC Vietnam. Levan noted that “by empowering smallholder farmers through knowledge sharing of best practices, and enabling their access to value chains, local agribusiness can ensure the sector’s inclusive and sustainable growth.”
Levan also added that “Sustainability is a key expectation of URC’s stakeholders, from investors, communities who live around URC’s plants, the government which mandates compliance with all regulations, and those who look upon URC as industry leaders in leading sustainable business practices.” URC joins the growing list of businesses who are committing to long-term sustainability, which will form part of the food and beverage giant’s core business strategy.
“At CCIFV, we strongly believe Corporate Social responsibility is a key factor that positively differentiates companies while creating shared value and reinforcing sustainable development in Vietnam. That is why we strive to encourage and support businesses to develop responsible strategies,” said Guillaume Crouzet, General Manager at CCIFV. He added, “We are really happy to support this Agribusiness Roundtables session and to start the conversation with companies eager to adopt good business practices. Getting insights from successful and impactful inclusive agribusiness models in the region leads companies to adopt their own socially responsible strategy, engaged with smallholders. The agribusiness sector in Vietnam has a role to play in fostering inclusive growth through the building of responsible and multi-stakeholder approaches.
CSR Asia’s Project Manager Mrs Rebecca Walker Chan gave an overview of the agribusiness challenges faced in ASEAN and highlighted opportunities for ensuring sustainable agribusiness growth via the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. and the business case of adopting smallholder inclusion best practices based on a study conducted by CSR Asia with ten companies leading in this in the region. While presenting findings from CSR Asia’s research, Mrs Walker Chan emphasized that the agribusiness sector is well positioned to make an industry-wide contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, while prioritizing and addressing sectoral challenges. This will only become possible by creating collaborative, long-term multi-stakeholder partnerships between government, the private sector, and agricultural communities.
During the session, CSR Asia presented two publications that address the integral role of the agribusiness sector in achieving long-term regional sustainability in ASEAN.
Publication 1: Making the Case for Smallholder Inclusion: An Analysis of Ten Agricultural Private Sector Actors who have adopted Responsible and Inclusive Approaches to Smallholder Producers
- Selection of 10 companies in ASEAN which have realized returns on investments into enhanced community and smallholder engagement.
- This report can be used as a reference tool to show how the private sector is able to establish their own programmes, and to outline the range of approaches that contribute to market expansion and supply security. All stakeholders involved in the agribusiness sector can use this analysis as a resource and advocacy driver in promoting better agricultural practices and collective impacts.
- For each SDG, the report explores the challenges and opportunities for the agribusiness sector and identifies innovative organizations that are leading by example by incorporating aspects of the SDG into their operations.
- Companies can use this report as a tool to assess which SDGs are most relevant to their businesses and the impact they have, especially on issues such as smallholder inclusion and gender inequality, while also scoping opportunities to incorporate the SDGs into their own strategies.
With the presentations serving as inspiration for discussion, participants we encouraged to share their experiences and challenges to aligning SDGs with their businesses and brainstormed ways to improve their contributions while also developing potential partnerships. SDG 1: No Poverty, SDG 3: Good Health & Wellbeing, SDG 14: Life Below Water and SDG15: Life on Land were considered by the group as most relevant for agricultural businesses in Vietnam, while the importance of SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals was emphasised throughout the discussions as a key enabler for the private sector to achieve the other SDGs.
On the topic of investing in women, it was encouraging that participants generally perceive a smaller gender gap in Vietnam compared with other ASEAN countries, however few companies had conducted a gender analysis on their workforce or supply chain to assure this perception. Companies were encouraged to examine the gender dimension of their work by simple steps like asking for gender desegregated data to understand the gender-responsiveness of their business practices. Participants were advised to start mapping out key next steps, setting objectives and targets and developing mechanisms to track progress if they have already or planned to adopt more responsible business practices that could create shared value for both the business and their supply chain.
Some multinational companies raised concerns that the government’s strict regulations on their direct engagement with local smallholder farmers has been a barrier for them in starting smallholder inclusion programmes, while some small and medium local enterprises had difficulties allocating financial and human resources for such programmes. Closer partnership between local partners and multinational groups has been identified as an approach that could potentially address both problems.
About Universal Robina Corporation
Universal Robina Corporation (URC) is one of the largest branded consumer food and beverage product companies in the Philippines and has a significant and growing presence in the ASEAN markets. URC is engaged in a wide range of food-related businesses, including the manufacture and distribution of branded consumer foods and is also in commodities namely sugar million band refining and flour milling and in Agro industrial businesses of farms mainly hogs and animal feed milling and related products. As part of their overall sustainability strategy, URC aims to further strengthen their partnerships with their own people, supplier and distribution networks, regulatory bodies, and the communities they work in, to renew their social license to operate.
About French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Vietnam
The French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Vietnam (CCIFV) main goal is to drive and represent the French business community in Vietnam and to facilitate the exchange of goods, services and capital between both countries. It gathers over 280 members from individual members to MNCs, including SMEs. CCIFV CSR Program aims to increase the flow of good business practices, experiences and contacts to enhance sustainable development in Vietnam. Our mission is to raise awareness on CSR through events, publications and surveys, but also to support companies in the development of their CSR approach through consulting services and online tools.