Sustainable development strategy is challenging but key to company's long-term development

November 29, 2019 - 09:00
Sustainability is no longer a trend but a policy encouraged by the government for businesses to follow. Adopting CSI is essential and also applicable for businesses across the country regardless of scale or economic sector, Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing CEO has said.


Edmond Lee – CEO of Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing. 

The Việt Nam Business Council for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the Việt Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) on Tuesday announced the top 100 sustainable businesses in Việt Nam in 2019. Việt Nam News spoke with Edmond Lee – CEO of Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing about the meaning of a CSI (corporate sustainable index) strategy to the company's development.

Why are more and more businesses paying attention to CSI?

Sustainability is no longer a trend but a policy encouraged by the government for businesses to follow.

CSI is a set of sustainable development criteria set by the Việt Nam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD) and Việt Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) to assess and honour excellent businesses in sustainable development.

Adopting CSI is a chance for companies to get honoured and recognised for what they’ve been actually doing. It also gathers all stakeholders in Việt Nam to exchange intelligence to better understanding the importance and benefits of sustainable development to businesses, communities and society. Companies can learn through good global practices of sustainable development.

I think CSI is essential and also applicable for businesses across the country regardless of scale or economic sector.

This is the second consecutive year that Lee & Man Vietnam has been honoured as one of the Top 100 sustainable businesses in Việt Nam. What changes have you adopted this year and what challenges so you face?

The award is an honourable opportunity for Lee & Man Vietnam. Taking part in sustainable business rankings is a way for our company to look back on what has been improved, what is missing and where to invest in order to develop in a green and sustainable way in the long run.

Sustainability sounds very common and popular. However, pursuing a sustainable development goal is quite challenging for many businesses, as well as for Lee & Man. Companies must consider many aspects within the business operation, such as finance, resources, vision, technology or labour, as well as invest lots of time, efforts and their resources in non-financial goals related to environment and society.

At the Hậu Giang factory, we use technology and utilise recycled paper to increase productivity and quality. We invest in advanced production and waste treatment systems to protect the environment and focus on training and improving living conditions of employees. We also contribute to the community by awarding scholarships to colleges, raining funds for kindergarten and primary schools.

How will Industry 4.0 shape the manufacturing landscape, especially the paper manufacturing sector? In your opinion, is the demand for paper decreasing along with rapid technology adoption?

Industry 4.0 can empower manufacturing or ‘smart factories’ for a truly productive environment, benefiting both manufacturers and consumers in ways of enhanced communication, real-time monitoring, advanced data analysis, and self-diagnosis.

I think Industry 4.0 is not just robotics, but it means minimising the cost and maximising efficiency. To obtain the best possible performance, Lee & Man has invested more than US$650 million in the world's most advanced packaging paper production lines from leading equipment suppliers from Austria, Sweden, USA and Germany, boasting a capacity of 420,000 tons/year.

The factory's high degree of automation allows the company to consume less energy and water in operations. We also apply the circular economy model and use recycled paper as our input. More than 95 per cent of all inputs are used by the company.

I don’t see the demand for paper decreasing. There are different kinds of paper such as packaging paper, writing paper and tissue paper. Our factory in Hậu Giang Province is manufacturing packaging paper. People buy more products online and they have demand for better product packaging itself.

Are there any conflicts between production efficiency and environmental protection in the company? What do you do to balance these two targets?

Any manufacturing industry has certain risks but sustainable development is the right direction and we do not trade off the environment for business profit, but to balance between sustainability and making profits.

Each year, we invest millions of US dollars on waste treatment, including in wastewater, solid waste, biogas and biomass. This year, the company is continuing to import new types of machinery worth about VNĐ20 billion to strengthen the waste sedimentary process.

Tangible factors such as sales and profits will be easily achieved in the short term, but prestige, reputation and responsibility to the community is what Lee & Man really wants to target in the long term.

What is the importance of human resources to the company’s sustainable strategy?

At Lee & Man, apart from production activities, the human factor is also one of our company's great concerns.

When setting up a factory in the Mekong Delta, Lee & Man faced a challenge in terms of labour, especially high-quality labour. Initially, local workers did not have much experience in paper manufacturing, but we have gradually overcome that problem by focusing on training so that we can employ and utilise local human resources.

Lee & Man has more than 1,200 employees, of which more than 95 per cent are Vietnamese, and more than 30 per cent are female. Each year, we invest $1.4 million in recruiting and developing our human resources.

We coordinate with qualified Colleges and Universities in the country to open training courses for local students in electrical engineering and manufacturing techniques and sponsor all tuition and living expenses for them. Fresh graduates will work for our company with the starting salary of VNĐ6-7 million per month.

The company also focuses on remuneration policies, ensuring accommodation, activities as well as meals for our employees. In the sustainable development goal, we pay attention to corporate social responsibility. This is a commitment to economic development along with improving the quality of life of workers and their families, as well as Hậu Giang community and society.