giving hope for a greener tomorrow
(Alexander Wan and Selina Lo)
warming, the exhausting of energy reserves and water supplies,
pollution, insufficient land to support a growing population,
abject poverty and uneven distribution of resources were identified
as the world's major problems by delegates at China Daily's 21st
The event, with the theme of "Sustainable Development in
China" and chaired by Dr Jane Goodall was held on December
6 at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Beijing. Goodall, world-renowned
chimpanzee expert and UN Messenger for Peace, met with some thirty
CEOs and leaders from multinational companies in major business
sectors such as energy, petro-chemicals, technology, cars, finance,
strategy consulting, healthcare, NGOs and a special delegation
from the Harvard School of Public Health.
"Other countries have been through the same kind of problems
that China is facing today," said Goodall, citing examples
in the UK and US." China is so big and there are so many
people so inevitably, environmental and other problems are going
to be harder to tackle."
the model of sustainable development to be really sustainable,
you need two approaches: top-down and bottom-up," said Professor
Liu Yuanli, director of the China Initiative in the Department
of Population and International Health of the Harvard School of
"Leadership is needed at the planning and policy level,"
Liu added.He illustrated this with a story of how county government
leadership in Hubei curbed deforestation by introducing methane
as a cooking fuel to replace firewood, which stopped inhabitants
from cutting down trees.
role of the government
Executive Editor of the China Daily CEO Roundtable, Alexander
Wan, pointed out that the Chinese government is already working
on sustainable development.
"In China's 11th Five-Year Plan which is coming up in the
country in a few weeks," Wan reminded delegates,"there
will be a continual emphasis from top state leadership on the
development of a harmonious society, which is very relevant to
what we are talking about here today. It is very much about applying
scientific approaches to make use of natural and human resources
for the long-term benefit of all people."
Michael, director and senior vice-president of the Boston Consulting
"Clearly, the Chinese Government is increasingly taking the
issue that you highlighted very seriously," he said.
he added that even the government is not omnipotent in the face
of such grave environmental issues.
"I think the experience in other countries would be that
governments cannot do all of this by themselves," says Michael."And
in other countries, there's more of a tradition of support from
non-governmental organizations and also from domestic companies.
In China, there's not such a history of non-governmental organizations,
and many domestic companies are too new to have developed experience
in social responsibility."
The role of companies
at the roundtable were CEOs and senior executives from Fortune
500 companies including Bayer, ChevronTexaco, Deloitte, Dow Chemical,
Hewlett Packard, Novartis, Siemens and Shell. Officials from the
German Embassy, the US Embassy and the World Health Organization
(WHO) were also present. Goodall admitted her ethical dilemma:
multinationals are both the culprit of environmental degradation
and its saviours.
"If you have people continually wanting more than they need,
and those people can't grow everything and harvest everything
that they need for their lifestyle locally, they will go out and
basically rape the last of these resources from other parts of
the world," Goodall said."Thus, there is a continual
conflict between environmental protection and economic growth,
and again and again, economic growth wins out."
is where the multinational companies (MNCs) come in, said Goodall,
because only their moral and financial support can push change
"We need wealthy people more than ever before to buy into
the new technologies which start off as very expensive,"
she said."One of the really encouraging developments is that
corporations are stepping in, and so we're having increasing support,
particularly in China, from corporations that care, that do have
an ethical standard."
The role of technology
McIlvenny, president of Dow greater China, also spoke up for MNCs.
"Today, I think, corporations are much more open, more willing
to participate, wanting to participate," he said.
"And companies like mine believe in technology.We believe
that there are technical solutions to all problems.And with the
right co-operation, we can solve our issues," said McIlvenny.
technology, Liu Xiaowei, deputy director of external affairs of
Shell China, said: "Whether multinational or Chinese, I do
think they [corporations] all have a role to play.Being multinational,
our role is to apply cutting edge technology."
Christensen, Chairman of the Global Bridge Foundation,claimed
MNCs can even set the stage for global collaboration and speed
think corporations can play a big role in helping with tolerance
and understanding between the people of different countries,"
China is still considered to be at the evolvement stage in many
issues as far as other countries like the US is concerned, I think
it's important to have mutual respect for the tremendous and great
challenge that China, its leaders and its business people have.
With a true understanding where all parties are, mutual respect
and tolerance, we will have an even better chance of progressing."
The role of NGOs
have been growing rapidly in China recently. Liu Xiaowei said
there was "a lot of hope to promote sustainable development
in China" because of them.
while NGOs and environmental organizations are all working towards
a common goal, they can sometimes get very territorial, Goodall
"We're trying to form partnerships with more of them like
the Nature Conservancy and the IFAW (International Fund for Animal
Welfare) ," she said.
advocated a more open attitude to enlist as much corporate aid
as possible in order to enhance global participation and efforts.
companies which she believes are cutting-edge and trying to do
it better, she said:"I want to support them because if people
don't support them, and they (the firms) are paying a little bit
more to do it ethically, they're going to go out of business or
they'll revert to their old ways."
Hope is in the children: animals, people and the environment.
said children are the future. "My hope is in the youth,"
she said. "My hope is that children are influencing not only
their parents, but also those people in corporate leadership roles,
NGO heads and government leaders who truly care about the future
of their planet, the future of their own country and above all,
the future of their own children."
In 1998, Goodall started the 'Roots & Shoots' programme in
China, teaching young people how to choose hands-on projects to
make the world a better place in three areas: animals, people
and the environment.With a presence in 90 countries, Roots &
Shoots has 8,000 active groups around the world of all ages from
pre-school to university. Between 400 to 500 groups are now present
in different parts of China, and according to Goodall, "it's
"Roots & Shoots was the direct outcome of my conviction
that young people today are losing hope because of the insoluble
problems that have been inflicted on the planet, says Goodall.
"If we do care about our grandchildren and theirs, then this
environmentally sustainable future is desperately important."
Liu Yuanli echoed Goodall's views on the importance of what he
called a bottom-up approach.
"Sustainable development is about children not only because
we care about their welfare, but also because children can play
a powerful role in changing behaviour," said Liu.
"My kids are always reminding me to recycle," Liu confessed.
"I've been a professor at Harvard and am good at talking
the talk, but it's children who hold their parents accountable
for walking the walk."
Countries define hopes and solutions
urged countries to look at themselves because she believed only
the countries themselves have the solutions.
"I don't have the solutions, but the people in a country
do. And it's the people in the country in China that I've spoken
to on my different visits that have given me more ideas as to
how we can introduce the Roots & Shoots programme."
"Roots & Shoots is growing in every kind of different
environment, including China," said Goodall."It's very
much about breaking down the barriers that we erect between people
of different countries, different cultures, different religions,
and the tremendous barrier that we have erected between us and
the animal kingdom."
"They're [the children] going to be increasingly infected
with the Roots and Shoots philosophy.It's a good philosophy -
and as I say, it changes lives. It gives hope to our children.
Hope is and will be there."
agreed that both the hope and the solutions concerning sustainable
development in China are to be found within society. (comments