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Greening the Covid-19 Recovery in Vietnam (Part II)

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Ngoc Anh Hoang, Program Associate at the Ida C. & Morris Falk Foundation
|   October 18, 2021
How can Vietnam green its way out of the pandemic
for a more resilient, circular recovery?

While Vietnam has indeed demonstrated willingness to strive for transformative resilience with circularity, the question of how Vietnam can green its way out of this crisis for a more resilient recovery remains unresolved.

Like most developing countries, Vietnam lags behind the wealthy nations that were able to secure the majority of early vaccine supplies. As a result, strict lockdowns have been imposed to contain the surge of infections for 3 consecutive months and counting in Vietnam’s major cities. Needless to say, the nation’s economy has been hit the hardest.

Yet, the opportunity to emerge out of this crisis stronger and better cannot be wasted in the name of urgency. The ICM Falk Foundation believes that a green recovery is a formidable yet achievable challenge for the world, and for Vietnam. 

This article is the second piece in our series of “Greening the Covid-19 recovery in Vietnam” blog posts, where we explore the term “green recovery” and its implications in the context of Vietnam. In the previous post, we outlined a definition of “green recovery”, and the key challenges that Vietnam faces to realize this one-in-a-generation opportunity.

Key instruments that drive our recovery path towards circularity and resilience
From rescue to recovery…

Initially, in the rescue phase, governmental efforts are the weightiest. The public sector holds the ultimate power to allocate fiscal expenditures and stimulus packages to cushion the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic while instigating a circular transition for longer-term green recovery. In order to achieve that, these recovery packages must be well-designed with a clear sense of direction to incentivize green practices while making fossil-based industries commit to decarbonize. This will enable Vietnam to build back its socio-economic fabric in a way that ensures sustainability and circularity to address the enduring climate and environmental crises.

For that to happen, Vietnam needs to tailor a comprehensive green recovery roadmap.

Source: Elliot Andrews on Unsplash

…to transformation and resilience

A transformative time requires transformative approaches. History has witnessed human’s creativity and resilience in creating solutions and building back from disruptions. Now is the time to overhaul and transform our fragile linear economy.

Let science and innovation lead the way

Tapping into the power of science and innovation will allow Vietnam to unleash the further potential of circularity in dealing with the current crisis and building blocks for future sustainability. “Prioritizing innovation today is the key to unlocking post-crisis growth”, as noted by McKinsey in a report.

Innovative solutions in production and consumption are needed to scale up circularity for the post-pandemic recovery. Science and creativity need to be at the forefront of our response, combined with solid support for entrepreneurial ventures, such as funding or capacity building. Uniting entrepreneurial spark and spirit is instrumental to solve tough problems in support of a cause we all agree upon – a better and circular future. At this stage, Vietnam’s public sector must partner up with private actors to incorporate circularity into the needed system-level transformation.

Identifying the opportunities for Vietnam to embark on a sustainability-led recovery

Despite hindrances, opportunities are available for Vietnam to fuel a circular transition and materialize the much-needed bounce-back where people and nature can thrive together. 

Global synergies 

Vietnam and its government alone can not make this recovery possible. This is the time to reinforce the value of multilateralism and public/private collaboration. Transformative resilience requires coordinated efforts from all actors in the global economy.

International communities and financial institutions have explicitly affirmed their support for Vietnam’s green recovery efforts. Most recently and notably, the World Bank has affirmed two development policy operations totaling $321.5 million designed to finance the central government and Vietnam’s largest economic hub, Ho Chi Minh City, in their green efforts.

Other fragments of the economy, including non-governmental organizations, are also combining forces to drive forward sustainable changes that contribute to a low-carbon recovery in Vietnam. Partnerships with different actors and at different levels are considered vital to promote a green recovery with harmonized coordination and proper leverage of external support – all efforts bound to accelerate the circular transition. As a non-profit family foundation, the ICM Falk Foundation has also been working with local stakeholders to accelerate green innovation by bridging the support gap in the regional ecosystem for new ideas and concepts to reduce waste.

Domestic advantages

Looking at the country’s status quo, we can spot numerous highlights that can ultimately contribute to an inclusive, low-carbon economic reset. Particularly, Vietnam’s existing regulatory framework, along with its cross-ministerial collaboration can serve as the cornerstone to roll out a green recovery roadmap as it already covers many of the core principles that constitute a circular economy.

Moreover, Vietnam has also witnessed momentum in the digital transformation amid this looming crisis as businesses quickly adapt to the new normalcy. While digitalization holds the potential for the development of innovative business models that are sustainability-oriented, it is also the driving force for the transformation towards a post-pandemic circular economy.  Vietnam needs to build up this digital impetus into a concrete enabler for the desirable green recovery.

Being a latecomer to the green and circular transformation also provides Vietnam with certain advantages as the country can learn from the world’s experiences.

Bottom-up initiatives

While top-down objectives are yet in place, momentum for a green, resilient recovery is also being built from the bottom up by the local Vietnamese businesses and communities. Even in these trying times, Vietnam and its region exhibit a growing dynamism in terms of innovation, entrepreneurship, and start-up creation that have a fundamental role to play in shaping the recovery.

As bottom-up circular and innovative initiatives are instrumental to systematic change and long-term resilient growth, Vietnam needs to keep up this spark in order to materialize green recovery promises. The time is ripe for the public sector, private investors and donors to harness the full potential of the local innovation capacity and support green entrepreneurship in Vietnam.

The ICM Falk Foundation is actively engaging in supporting local initiatives by generating and sharing knowledge, piloting innovations, developing programs, and co-investing in Vietnam and its region. We want to expand our network of mission-driven stakeholders and bolster an enabling environment for local youth to initiate green innovation that guarantees resilience over the long term. As the IKEA Foundation noted, “the path to a green recovery and a brighter future lies in this willingness to innovate and take collaborative action.” 

With country-specific strengths and unwavering support from stakeholders at all levels, Vietnam has a good premise to recover from the Covid-19 crisis with environmentally sane efforts and innovative solutions – the sooner, the better. And now is the ripe time for Vietnam to embark on its green recovery journey.

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About the ICM Falk Foundation

The Ida C. & Morris Falk Foundation is a private, 501c3 family foundation that seeks to support innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership that drives positive, equitable and sustained impact for the world’s communities and ecosystems. Building on the global commitment for the New Plastics Economy, the Foundation is now actively focused on innovative solutions that contribute to the reduction of plastics production, waste and pollution within Vietnam.