Inclusive and Sustainable Growth: Oxfam and YEAC Spearhead Sustainable Business Forum in Cambodia

Tom Starkey

In an effort to galvanize sustainable growth and social responsibility in the business sector, global non-profit organization Oxfam joined hands with the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Cambodia (YEAC) to orchestrate a Sustainable Business Forum. The event, convened under the banner “Together for Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Growth in Cambodia,” took place at the Oakwood Premier Phnom Penh Hotel, with significant support from the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology & Innovation (MISTI).

The forum served as a melting pot of ideas, where representatives from the government, and the private sector congregated to discuss the significance of sustainable business practices and their effective implementation. It was a critical event that highlighted the importance of collaboration and shared responsibility in addressing the looming climate crisis, as well as the need for responsible and inclusive growth in Cambodia.

Together for Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Growth in Cambodia hosted at Oakwood Premier Phnom Penh on July 5, 2023.

Steve Hamilton, Oxfam’s Cambodia Country Director, illuminated the proceedings with his keynote address. A series of panel discussions followed, touching on a range of subjects including businesses’ role in climate change mitigation, the transition towards sustainable supply chains, the vital role of social responsibility, and the benefits that could be gleaned from the adoption of sustainable business practices.

Responsible business practices driving economic growth

Oxfam National Director, Ms. Sophoan Phean, in her address, highlighted the potential of inclusive and responsible business practices in driving economic growth. She stressed how such practices could help alleviate poverty, urging SMEs and MSMEs to adopt more responsible, inclusive, and sustainable practices.

“As part of the private sector, SMEs/MSMEs play an instrumental role, but they require assistance to expand and adopt these practices. We recognise the necessity of supporting them to operate in a more responsible, inclusive and sustainable manner,” Phean said.

Read more: EuroCham Green Business Forum 2023: Cambodia’s Strategic Shift to Sustainable Policies and Eco-Investments

Clarifying on the necessity of collaborative efforts, she stated, “Oxfam believes public, private partnerships (PPP) in collaboration with the NGO sector can harness the necessary resources, and expertise to support the growth of SMEs/MSMEs for a more equitable and prosperous future for Cambodia and the ASEAN.”

Together for Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Growth in Cambodia hosted at Oakwood Premier Phnom Penh on July 5, 2023.

YEAC President, Oknha Pech Bolen, echoed similar sentiments. He highlighted the Young Entrepreneurs Development Center (YEDC), recently established by YEAC, designed to bolster capacity building of young entrepreneurs. Bolen emphasized that YEAC’s vision aligns with promoting digital, inclusive, and innovative MSMEs in Cambodia.

“Inclusive business is one of the main agendas of YEAC, so their operations and technical assistance continue to focus on promoting inclusive business across their members. The award program for outstanding young entrepreneurs is the process of motivating them to take action to achieve inclusive and sustainable business,” Bolen detailed.

SMEs represent 99% of registered businesses in Cambodia

H.E Dr. Heng Sokkung, Secretary of state of MISTI, stressed the important role of SMEs in Cambodia’s economy. “SMEs represent 99% of registered businesses in Cambodia and employ about 70% of workers,” he said. This statistic indicates their profound impact on the Cambodian economy, making their commitment to sustainability even more critical.

Read more: ADB Report Urges Cambodia to Scale Up Green Investment for Sustainable Growth and Climate Resilience

Towards the end of the event, a panel discussion titled “Inclusive Business and Green Growth for SMEs: Current Trends, Development, and Challenges of Sustainable Business” unfolded. Ms. Sar San, Impact SME Project Manager at Oxfam, moderated the discussion, which featured esteemed panelists from MISTI, Khmer Enterprise, Association of Banks in Cambodia, My Dream Home, and Cambodian Standard Development & Supply Co., Ltd.

Together for Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Growth in Cambodia hosted at Oakwood Premier Phnom Penh on July 5, 2023.

The forum culminated in a call for the establishment of a “Sustainable Business Platform”. This idea was well-received by most attendees who viewed it as an opportunity to extend the concept of corporate social responsibility beyond its traditional boundaries and embrace sustainability in a way that encourages green growth.

Such a platform aligns with the Royal Government of Cambodia’s commitment to an inclusive economy for green growth and sustainable development, and thus opens up a plethora of opportunities for SMEs and larger companies to navigate disruption and embrace sustainability.

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