WWF-Thailand Emphasizes Sustainable Finance, focusing on Seafood and Water Management
Yowalak Thiarachow, Country Director of WWF-Thailand addressed the opening speech that “Sustainable development is defined as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own need. Most importantly the adoption of Sustainability concept into bank’s operating and risk management policies is a critical factor of success in this sustainability development”
WWF experts on seafood from presented convincing data about importance of marine resources as food and how demand over the last few decades has driven more than two-thirds of fish stock towards or exceeding the fishing limit. This has driven the market shift towards more aquaculture production which still depends heavily on resource from the sea to be used as feed. Since seafood is one of the major export product of Thailand, we are facing both environmental and social concerns as well as scrutiny from international buyers on how we catch and produce our products.
There is a further elaboration on why sustainability in the sector matters to banks and how unsustainable practice can translate into credit risk. This has led some international banks to put up a clear policy on financing seafood business which includes running further due diligence for seafood supply chain and requirement for business to meet environmental performance certification. In most cases, companies involved in illegal fishing will not be able to access to the loan and financial support from these credible banks. Furthermore, Mr. Shreejesh Nair, Senior Vice President of Citibank has shared Citi’s policy in the same direction in supporting good practice companies to achieve sustainability. He suggested that Thai banks should start asking “How do they do it?” or how their customers produce their products. This is an easy first step for all the banks to look deeper at ESG in their operations.
The presentation followed by a panel discussion with various stakeholders along the seafood supply chain – from tuna processor to trade association to player from consumption side as well as representative from commercial bank. It is clear that Thai tuna industry committed themselves towards sustainability and made some progress towards improving their operations including supporting the fishing vessel upstream. This includes supporting organization such as Ocean Mind who used technology to improve vessel traceability which is core to sustainability fishery work. Panelist also confirmed that demand for sustainable seafood is growing and more supply is absolutely needed. The panelist from banking industry reiterated how banks have important role to play in encouraging any industry towards sustainability with its practice.
Afternoon session is about water resource and its cross-cutting importance in all sectors and industries. Water risk can cause impact far and wide across multiple industries and supply chains. Hence, it is crucial to find a sustainable way to manage this resource. Aaron Vermeulen, WWF International, presented water risk management in business sector under concept of Water Stewardship. Focus also covered how climate change and economic development increase the need for a better management of water resources. This followed by how various financial institutions set up a policy on water resource management of their clients and putting a review process in place before providing financial support.
The panel discussion featured how large corporations integrate water strategy into their operations and planning cycle of business. Nophadol Siwabutr, Cooperate Affairs Director of Nestle shared his valuable views on Nestle’s water management policy for the beverage industry, sustainability standard the company refers to, and how this affects the total value chain of the company’s cooperation on water.
Consumption and production create impact and strain to the ecosystem more and more each day. It is important that we must install proper conservation methods to protect our environment. However, focusing our efforts on conservation at source alone will not help us revert this unfavorable trend. Influence must be made from where all industries will take heed and financial sector is that influencer to positively change other industries towards sustainability. Explanation, discussion, and trend sharing in this seminar could help bankers to understand how to integrate ESG issues in their bank policy and to support their customers to operate sustainably.