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Synopsis of Event

On the 13th of February, EuroCham hosted an intimate dinner event with C-level guests to discuss current matters of the world. This time, Professor Jan Peter Balkenende joined us as the guest of honour. He is the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands (2002-2010) and current Chair of the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, a collaborative venture of eight Dutch multinational companies – Unilever, DSM, AkzoNobel, Friesland Campina, Philips, Shell, KLM and Heineken. Prof Balkenende is also a partner at the multinational professional services firm EY since 2011.

 

Prof Balkenende’s current work focuses on corporate responsibility, international affairs and the interaction of the public and private sectors. He has on many occasions visited Singapore to attend events conferences like Ecosperity and he is no stranger to Asia, having led numerous Dutch business missions to the region in search of investment opportunities.

 

Some of the interesting topics that were discussed during the night included that the belief of business being purely about maximising profit in the short run is outdated. – “Business is about creating shared value. Yes, you must create economic value or you cannot invest or keep people employed. But it is also about creating social value by addressing the needs of society.” 

 

Today’s big issues were also discussed, such as climate change, energy, human rights, ageing population, competitiveness. These require long term thinking, and addressing them is inevitable and necessary. – “The longer you wait to take measures, the tougher it will be in the future. So we cannot wait, and we need to do it together.” Everyone has to contribute to finding solutions for these problems, whether it’s government, businesses, or knowledge organisations like NGOs and universities.

 

The group brought up the problematic of short term political cycles as opposed to long term planning. – “Short-term political cycles by nature do not contribute to the long-term planning needed to tackle these challenges”, … this is why “we need leadership in politics… and also, we need clearly defined strategies to do it”.

 

Sustainability is currently the main focus for many of our participants, including EuroCham and was a hot topic at the event. – “One common perception is that sustainability is a “luxury” issue to care about only when the economy is doing well, but increasingly, the opposite is true because sustainability is profitable.” – “In the longer run, you can only survive in the economy if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you are innovative and you are sustainable. If you’ve missed one of these components, you can forget it.”

 

On the topic of sustainability, transparency and reporting were widely discussed and how to approach this matter. – “Sustainability reporting is important as it signals to the public that the company is not only open about financial performance but also its environmental and social impact and the integration of these elements.

“Companies have to set targets and key performance indicators and conduct a life-cycle analysis of the products and services they offer to determine their impact. If not it’s just a nice story and nothing more.”

 

We thank Professor Jan Peter Balkenende and all our dear guests for coming and joining us.