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APO 60th Anniversary Program: International Conference on Green Economy Growth: Synergizing Green Productivity and the Circular Economy [20 October 2022, Thailand]

Opening Remarks by APO Secretary-General
Dr. Indra Pradana Singawinata

  • Wijarn Simachaya, President of the Thailand Environment Institute
  • Acting Executive Director Surachet Polwanich, Thailand Productivity Institute,
  • Heads of NPOs and Advisers of APO members, and
  • Distinguished Speakers, Delegates, and Guests:

Good morning!

I am delighted to attend the International Conference on Green Economy Growth: Synergizing Green Productivity and the Circular Economy to commemorate the Asian Productivity Organization’s (APO’s) Diamond Jubilee. This is the third face-to-face commemorative event after the first held in Tokyo last year and the second last week in Pakistan.

First, allow me to share a short history of the APO. It began when an interim committee was assigned to draft a convention for the formation of an Asian productivity body at the 1st Asian Round Table Productivity Conference in Tokyo in 1959. The APO Convention was signed in Manila on 14 April 1961, and the APO was born on 11 May 1961. The productivity journey began with the eight founding members of the Republic of China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the host of this conference, Thailand.

From its formal establishment in 1961 with eight members to its 60th anniversary in 2021, the APO has grown steadily in scope, ambition, and membership. Today, the APO has 21 members that are geographically, economically, and culturally diverse but share the conviction that productivity gains through mutual cooperation are the key to inclusive, sustainable social and economic progress and prosperity.

The five key roles of the APO are think tank, catalyst, regional adviser, institution builder, and clearinghouse for productivity information. Based on these roles, the APO has been providing assistance to its members through various initiatives since its inception. Its progress during six decades cannot be summarized in this short time. However, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a few initiatives.

  • The Technical Expert Service (TES) Program was the first initiative launched in 1961. Under the TES Program, the APO engages specialists in a range of topics at the request of members for in-country consultancy to boost national productivity by providing real-world solutions to problems.
  • Recognizing the important role of National Productivity Organizations (NPOs) in the productivity movement, the Bilateral Cooperation between NPOs Program was launched in 1978. It aims to strengthen networks, share best practices, and facilitate benchmarking among NPOs.
  • The Green Productivity (GP) Program, which is the theme of today’s conference, was launched in 1994 as a practical way to meet the challenge of decoupling industrialization and environmental degradation, thereby leading to sustainable development. The objective of the APO’s GP Program is to enhance productivity, raise the competitiveness of enterprises, and simultaneously reduce negative impacts on the environment. After more than three decades, the APO is now revisiting the concept to align it with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Another initiative is the Centers of Excellence (COE). The first COE was established in Singapore in 2009, focusing on Business Excellence, followed by the COE on GP in the Republic of China, COE on Public-sector Productivity in the Philippines, COE on IT for Industry 4.0 in India, and COE on Smart Manufacturing in the Republic of China.
  • To support APO members amid the severe socioeconomic crisis caused by the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, a Special Account for Business Recovery and Resilience was introduced to strengthen the digital capability of NPOs and the resilience of SMEs and affected sectors in member countries. All member countries have benefited from this program.

As I mentioned, the APO introduced GP in 1994, two years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Agenda 21. The GP concept was formulated to simultaneously enhance productivity and address environmental concerns for overall socioeconomic development. It is a robust framework comprising tools, techniques, management systems, and a structured methodology based on the plan–do–check–act cycle to guide firm or organizational activities, products, and services toward profitability, productivity, and competitiveness while maintaining environmental quality. Overall, GP is a holistic strategy to ensure economic progress and competitiveness while tackling environmental issues and contributing to sustainability.

Over the years, sustainability concepts like the circular economy (CE) have gained traction. The CE aims to transform the existing linear model from “take–make–waste” to the elimination of waste, recirculation of products and materials, and use of regenerative materials. For GP, developing environment-friendly products and promoting the sustainable use of resources are the primary goals. On the other hand, the CE encourages environment-friendly products and production processes at the design and manufacturing stages, focusing on better resource utilization. With different concepts and approaches to sustainability available to APO members, it is important to identify and clarify how GP and the CE complement each other when it comes to meeting the UN SDGs as described in the APO publication Green Productivity and the Circular Economy, which is part of your conference materials. It is also important to understand the impacts of these two approaches on the economy as a whole and which aspects or sectors should be addressed on a priority basis to achieve future goals. I hope that this conference will contribute to our deeper understanding of GP and the CE.

I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the Government of Thailand for hosting this conference. My heartfelt appreciation goes to Dr. Wijarn Simachaya, President of the Thailand Environment Institute, for gracing this event and all distinguished speakers for sharing their valuable time, expertise, and knowledge with us today.

Finally, special thanks go to Acting Executive Director Surachet Polwanich, FTPI, and his dedicated staff members who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the smooth organization of this conference.

I hope that this conference is a productive occasion for all participants.

Thank you.

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