Distinguished business leaders, colleagues, and friends
I am pleased to welcome you all to our first roundtable with SMEs together with the Global Compact for an in-depth discussion on how to unlock the potential on sustainability through a green transformation in Thailand.
The UN has been engaging with SMEs, but we will need to deepen our partnerships for truly transformative results.
Today’s meeting is laying the groundwork for this by marking the beginning of a broad-based dialogue with you.
The recent World Economic Forum in Davos demonstrated the importance of a renewed focus on a green approach in doing business.
More and more businesses are recognizing that abiding by ESG principles is no longer an option but a necessity to maintain a competitive edge.
Thailand’s 2.6 million SMEs are critical to the economy. They contribute to a third of GDP and employ nearly 10 million people.
Without their full participation Thailand will not be able to meet its carbon reduction targets.
We believe we can seize the current momentum in country and globally by introducing clean technologies, improving resource efficiency, and greening the supply chains.
The UN in partnership with the Ministry of Industry and GCNT seeks to map the SME terrain for impactful entry points on targeted interventions in manufacturing, food production and services in support of this green transformation.
Let me speak to three examples of our partnerships with SMEs.
One, UNIDO is working with SMEs in aluminum-processing to introduce the best available low-carbon technologies in smelting and scrap-processing.
One of the companies had already reduced emissions by 20% but needs technical guidance on further reductions across its supply chain.
I am grateful that Khun Supat, the CEO of this company, has joined us today. Khun Supat, your commitment to reducing carbon emissions has been the critical driving force for greening your business.
Importantly, these are now being scaled up to 40% of aluminum companies nationwide. This shows that SMEs are quick on their feet when it comes to innovation and adoption, especially when it is backed by commitment, and positively impacts bottom lines.
Two, FAO and UNDP, together with the Ministry of Agriculture, are partnering with 300 SMEs to identify low-cost technologies for cutting food waste and improving production chains in snack foods, fermented rice, animal products, fishery, and dairy.
By introducing and improving simple processes in monitoring and quality control the SMEs have been able to reduce food waste by half and increase returns by over 17%.
Similarly, FAO is supporting changes in the use of antimicrobials in aquaculture. Small changes can protect public health while ensuring profits.
Three, more than 1,000 large and medium-sized hotels have signed on to UNESCO’s Sustainable Travel Pledge to reduce the use of disposable plastics.
Many of these businesses are also mainstreaming Thailand’s creative sectors such as visual arts, crafts, and fashion to generate sustainable livelihoods for local communities.
In a global tourism market increasingly conscious of environmental impacts, initiatives like this can make the industry far more competitive by supporting nature-based solutions.
However, for SMEs to make these transformations, they need coordinated and sustained support in three key areas.
First, bankers, investors and asset managers will need to support SMEs in a forward-learning manner while leveraging the Principles of Responsible Banking and Investment.
We at the UN are committed to taking this dialogue forward to unlock sustainable financing for SMEs so they can fully benefit from the introduction of the best available technologies.
Second, the Government needs to provide an enabling environment that aids SMEs in their transition to more sustainable practices and technologies. This can include support for upskilling, technological transfers, and innovation.
And third, larger corporations need to engage more comprehensively with their supply chains to invest in capacity building, finding innovative solutions to leverage technology and supporting due diligence for human rights.
For example, a large company incentivized SMEs in its supply chain to reduce their carbon emissions by switching their fleets of vehicles to run on natural gas.
Importantly, we will all need to move in unison, work together and learn from each another to accelerate the country’s sustainability transformation.
That is why today’s event is so important. All the expertise and experience brought by the participants will ensure a robust discussion of the way forward for SMEs in Thailand.