A senior environmental official on June 9 advised the local business community to focus on “green” models to make Cambodia a more inviting and sustainable regional hub for trade and investment.

Ministry of Environment secretary of state Tin Ponlok made the remark while officiating an opening ceremony for the Green Business Forum held by the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (EuroCham Cambodia).

In the midst of a surge in new investments and firms, Ponlok emphasised the importance of the business community’s involvement in developing a healthy circular economy in the Kingdom.

“We are celebrating today the pioneers of a programme that has the potential to make returnability and circularity bigger in Cambodia,” he said, referring to a glass bottle return initiative spearheaded by Heineken’s local unit.

“Our natural resources are not infinite. If we want to continue to grow and make Cambodia an attractive place to live, we need to transition towards business models which are more resource efficient.

“The circular economy is a big part of the solution. It is encouraging to see businesses taking the lead in this endeavour, and I hope this will inspire others to follow, so that circularity and returnability can become mainstream practices in the years to come,” Ponlok added.

EuroCham Cambodia chairman Tassilo Brinzer similarly highlighted the necessity for business community collaboration. “The annual forum underscores the urgent need to embrace a future where sustainable practices become the norm.

“It’s a vision that requires stronger collective action. Getting it right will open a whole new world of green investments to deliver sustainable economic value for the Kingdom,” he said.

Speaking at the forum, Heineken Cambodia managing director Samson Wong acknowledged that “the path to circularity will be a long one, perhaps challenging at times, and we can’t do it alone”.

“We’ve long invested in building a system that could support a larger scale bottle-return programme one day. All our bottles are already returnable. Now we need more to join the returnability movement and make it bigger. We welcome all, including other beverage players, to work together towards a circular value chain,” he said.

On May 12, the environment ministry formally rolled out the five-year Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) Cambodia, in an affirmation of the Kingdom’s commitment towards sustainability and inclusivity in economic growth.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) defines a “green economy” as “one that results in improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”, and adds that “it is low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially-inclusive”.

PAGE is a UN joint programme implemented by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), UNEP, UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

Cambodia’s 2020 Updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) includes a target to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 41.7 per cent by 2030 – a reduction that the NDC estimates at 64.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) per annum.