Fostering Innovation through Community Development

Taiwan is currently facing issues such as shrinking population, aging society, low birth rates, and an imbalance in urban and rural development. In order to address these issues, the Taiwanese government has launched the Regional Revitalization Program.

Every year AmCham Taipei’s Corporate Social Responsibility Committee hosts a forum to enhance members’ understanding of topics relating to social programs and environmental concerns. To raise awareness about the Regional Revitalization Program, the committee held a forum entitled “Fostering Innovation through Community Development” at the Grand Hyatt Taipei on October 2. The event was sponsored by JTI Taiwan.

This year experts from the Lovely Taiwan Foundation; Taichung Township Long-term Care Foundation; and Wu Wei Wu, a learning center for socially and economically disadvantaged children and teenagers in remote villages in Hualien County, were invited to discuss current trends regarding corporate social responsibility and how the private sector can help promote regional revitalization.

Li Ying-ping of the Lovely Taiwan Foundation recalled that following the 2009 typhoon that devastated mountainous areas of Taitung County, villagers originally were hesitant to accept assistance from the foundation, viewing it solely as an organization that hosts music festivals and other events. After talking with residents, the foundation came up with the idea of creating a platform to promote local culture, music, and arts and crafts. Together with the community, the foundation worked to raise funds to convert a dormitory facility for Taiwan Railway employees into what became the “Tiehua Music Village.”

Over the years, Tiehua Music Village has attracted international attention, especially after a number of famous artists and musicians performed at the park. In its approach to regional regeneration, Tiehua Music Village sets an excellent example for other communities.

Other speakers at the forum were Gu Yu-jun, professor of environmental studies at National Dong Hwa University and a volunteer worker and promoter of the Wu Wei Wu, and Lin Yi-ying, program leader of Taichung Township Long-term Care, who serves as an advocate for improving long-term care issues for the indigenous population in Taiwan.

Lin shared her experience working to improve long-term care issues for elderly members of the Atayal ethnic group. Besides serving as a volunteer caregiver, Lin also provides training courses for local residents interested in becoming a caregiver. She stressed the psychological rewards of seeing patients recover and helping improve the living conditions of indigenous families.

In a panel moderated by AmCham’s CSR Committee Co-chair Fupei Wang, the speakers discussed some of the challenges non-profits face due to the relatively small size of the Taiwan market – from obtaining funding to choosing the right partners – as well as difficulties posed by various laws and regulations. They urged the authorities and the private sector to work closely together to integrate resources to promote social innovation and economic development.

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Note: AmCham events are intended primarily for AmCham members and their guests. Many events are open to members’ guests and other non-members, but the attendance of any non-member must be approved in advance. AmCham reserves the right not to admit a non-member to any event without explanation.

CSR Forum Focuses on Social Enterprises

Describing social enterprises as an “important part of Taiwan’s soft power,” Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s Digital Minister, hailed their ability to meld the pursuit of social interests and business profits – forces usually thought of as being in conflict – to facilitate the search for common shared values and solutions. She made her remarks as the keynote speaker at the 2018 edition of AmCham Taipei’s annual CSR Forum, sponsored by JTI Taiwan and held at the Grand Hyatt Taipei.

Social enterprises are defined as organizations that apply business solutions to social problems.

“Treat social issues as opportunities, not roadblocks,” advised Tang. “And no matter what you do, seek to build off of the energy of those around you.”

Other speakers at the forum were Sabrina Chen, CEO of Flow Inc., the first Taiwanese social enterprise; Stephanie Chan, CEO of Blueseeds, producer of 100% environmentally friendly household products; and Jianjia “Ajia” Gong, founder and Veterinary Officer of Pure Milk Ltd., a platform that connects dairy farmers and consumers.

Chen introduced Flow’s efforts to assist the disabled after rounds of interviewing people with disabilities showed that unemployment levels in this segment of the population are much higher than government statistics indicate. She noted that the disabled fall into one of three categories:

“They’re either functional enough to get jobs, so dysfunctional they qualify for government support, or they’re in between and neglected.”

This third group became Flow’s target population. “They very much want to work, and they are able to,” said Chen. “But they’re being displaced in [the service] industry, where they are competing with other disadvantaged people – those with low income, the elderly, and young people with little education. We asked ourselves: ‘What kinds of tech won’t become obsolete? How can we create opportunities where the weak don’t displace the weak?’ You need something that is sustainable and scalable.”

After some investigation, she settled on offering services in Building Information Modeling (BIM) as Flow’s first effort to provide employment opportunities for the disabled. “It’s the process of building a digital representation of a physical structure before you start building the actual thing,” Chen explains. She notes that you “need a group of people to do it, it’s a skill that can be learned, and it’s something that will always be necessary.”

Stressing the need for social enterprises to be financially viable, Stephanie Chan discussed Blueseeds’ difficult first three years when it was rapidly burning cash. “Because we want to stick to both 100% natural products and production processes, we can’t rely on standard farming practices that involve pesticides and heavy machinery,” she explained. “So our work is labor intensive, and our product was being eaten up by the birds and insects in the ecosystem.”

Cautioning persistence, she notes that many organic farmers give up within the first three years. In Blueseeds’ case, it only became profitable after three years, and since then the return on investment has been high. The message: perseverance pays off.

The advice from Pure Milk’s Gong was that “growth will come organically if you find the right partners with similar values.” But you “have to take time to understand what potential partners value, since sometimes what people say they value is different from what they really do.” For Pure Milk the key values are taking proper care of the dairy cows, practicing eco-friendly farming, and producing milk of the highest quality.

Gong said the idea for starting Pure Milk came after he noticed the large disparity in how well dairy farms were managed in Taiwan, yet “milk from farms that pay attention to animal welfare and environmental protection was worth the same as milk from farms that don’t.” The enterprise is partnering with four farms that share its high standards, helping them market their product to ensure they receive the return they deserve.

“As it turns out,” says Gong, pampered animals produce better milk.”

From left to right: AmCham’s CSR Committee Co-Chair Lume Liao, Deputy Secretary-General, Association of Chain and Franchise Promotion; Aga (龔建嘉), Founder and Veterinarian of I Love Milk (鮮乳坊); Stephanie Chan, Chief Executive Officer of Blueseeds (芙彤園); Audrey Tang, Minister without Portfolio of the Executive Yuan; Sabrina Chen, Chief Executive Officer of Flow (若水); CSR Committee Co-Chair Fupei Wang, Managing Director of Ogilvy PR; and AmCham Taipei President William Foreman.

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Note: AmCham events are intended primarily for AmCham members and their guests. Many events are open to members’ guests and other non-members, but the attendance of any non-member must be approved in advance. AmCham reserves the right not to admit a non-member to any event without explanation.

Annual CSR Forum Focuses on the Circular Economy

The AmCham Taipei CSR Committee held a forum entitled, “The New Concept of a Circular Economy – Creating a Future of Zero Waste” on September 28 at the Grand Hyatt Taipei. The speakers were Vivian Tai, Dell’s regional senior manager for Environmental Affairs & Producer Responsibility; Gaven Chang, assistant general manager at PwC Taiwan in charge of sustainable development service; and Chen Kuang-hsi, senior manager for research at the Taiwan Cement Corp. The event was conducted in Chinese language.

Tai explained how Dell in recent years has spared no effort to promote a “closed loop” program to channel waste materials back into the production cycle to contribute to solving the serious problem posed by waste electrical and electronic products (WEEE). Dell last year was able to use over 50 million pounds of recovered materials in its production of personal computers, four years ahead of schedule, and has raised the target to 100 million pounds by 2020.

The company also aims to lift the share of recovered plastics from the current 11.7% of the total to 35%, and to utilize only recyclable materials in its packaging. An example is its use of bamboo and wheat stalks as packaging materials on the Chinese market.

Without sacrificing quality and durability, said Tai, Dell has expanded application of the “closed loop” program to 91 product lines. It uses recovered materials not only from its own waste products but also from external sources, such as recovered plastics provided by a treatment plant of the Wistron Corp. in China, as well as plastics collected by the NGO Goodwill Industries from 2,000 recycling stations throughout the United States.

Tai noted that the program starts from product design. Incorporating a modular product structure facilitates the removal and replacement of defective parts.

Looking ahead, Dell plans to expand both the volume of recovered materials and the scope, extending the process to include such materials as precious metals, which are used heavily in electronic products, and carbon fiber.

“Promoting the circular economy by increasing the use of recovered materials is an inevitable trend,” said Tai. “IT firms bear the largest responsibility, since they are the largest source of industrial waste materials. The volume of waste electric and electronic products is expected to exceed 50 million tons this year.”

Concurring regarding the inevitability of the circular economy, Gaven Chang of PwC Taiwan noted that “at the current rate of exploitation of natural resources,” by 2030 “we will need two earths.” A conspicuous example of wastefulness is the mobile phone. Consumers typically buy a new one every two years, the main reason for the staggering number of 30-50 million waste mobile phones worldwide per year.

Due largely to the huge and growing demand from China, international prices of raw materials have been rising at an annual clip of 30% since 2000, compared with 15-20% previously, said Chang. He cited the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s definition of the circular economy: “Looking beyond the current ‘take, make, and dispose’ extractive industrial model, the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimizing negative impacts. The circular economy is a continuous, positive development cycle.”

Chang said the circular economy will bring a number of new business models, including the renovation and reuse of waste products, recycling of waste materials, leasing instead of purchasing, and the sharing of products and services. Suppliers will stress the durability of products, making them suitable for lease over a long period of time, and consumers will stress the enjoyment, rather than the ownership, of products and services.

The trend will have a profound influence on industrial design, which will emphasize modular structure and the employment of single materials for easy dismantling/ repair/replacement and recycling.

The circular economy has also been gaining acceptance in recent years in heavy industries such as cement and steelmaking that have been under the close scrutiny of environmentalists. Under the concept of “environmental protection is a responsibility, not a cost, Taiwan Cement, for instance, has been promoting the recycling and reuse of waste since 1990,” said Chen Kuang-hsi.

A key item is full utilization of after-heat at cement kilns for power generation and incineration of household and industrial wastes. “Power generated by after-heat now supplies one-third of the power consumption at our kilns,” he said. “Moreover, the after-heat, at 1,000-1,400 degrees Celsius, can incinerate waste entirely, without producing bottom ashes, a serious problem in the case of incinerators. Bottom ashes, which contain dioxin, have to be solidified first to stabilize their properties before being buried at landfill sites. Many of those sites have been almost filled to the brim, as one ton of bottom ashes can be enlarged to 50 tons in weight after solidification.”

Chen noted that many hi-tech firms, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), have entrusted Taiwan Cement to incinerate their industrial wastes.

In cooperation with the Industry Technology Research Institute (ITRI), the company has also installed a system capturing CO2 emitted from its chimneys, with limestone as the CO2 absorption agent. The limestone with CO2 is then used in nurturing microalgae.

From left to right: CSR Committee Co-chair Fupei Wang, Managing Director at Ogilvy PR; Jessie Chuang, Communications Manager, Corporate Affairs & Communications at JTI; Gaven Chang, Assistant General Manager at PwC Taiwan; Andrea Wu, AmCham Taipei President; Vivian Tai, Regional Senior Manager for Environmental Affairs & Producer Responsibility at Dell; and Chen Kuang-hsi, Senior Manager for research at the Taiwan Cement Corp.

Interested in attending our events? Join us at other upcoming events, click here.

Note: AmCham events are intended primarily for AmCham members and their guests. Many events are open to members’ guests and other non-members, but the attendance of any non-member must be approved in advance. AmCham reserves the right not to admit a non-member to any event without explanation.

AmCham Joint Luncheon: CSR and Business Growth with Low Carbon Strategy by Green Bond

There are just only fifteen years left for keeping global average temperatures “well below” 2°C above preindustrial levels. Paris Agreement of UNFCCC, which is effective last November, will drive the transformation of doing business in a low carbon mode. The financial sector and capital market play vital roles for supporting the low carbon economy.

On April 20, AmCham CSR Committee & Sustainable Development Committee held “CSR and Business Growth with Low Carbon Strategy Supported by Green Bond” at the Grand Hyatt Taipei. The speaker Niven Huang, General Manager, KPMG Sustainability Consulting Co., Ltd., introduced the fact & trend of emerging green bond and other vital worldwide signals of low carbon transformation.

As the growth of corporate green bonds is expected to continue and play an important role in the economy, Dr. Niven Huang addressed the pathway of embedding climate change issue into CSR actions and business strategy. While several green bonds were issued by well-known companies in the last several years, there is a lack of consensus in green bond standards. Strengthening green bond standards will be necessary to help build trust and confidence, as well attract more investors for environmental projects.

From left to right: Nadia Chen, Country Executive, Bank of New York Mellon Taipei Branch, speaker Niven Huang, General Manager, KPMG Sustainability Consulting Co., Ltd., Cosmas Lu, Strategy Adviser, Super Dragon Technology Co., LTD.

Interested in attending our events? Join us at other upcoming events, click here.

Note: AmCham events are intended primarily for AmCham members and their guests. Many events are open to members’ guests and other non-members, but the attendance of any non-member must be approved in advance. AmCham reserves the right not to admit a non-member to any event without explanation.