When it comes to globally acclaimed forums addressing sustainable issues, the Global Corporate Sustainability Forum (GCSF), organized by the Taiwan Alliance for Sustainable Development Goals (A·SDGs) and executed by the Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy (TAISE), stands out as a representative event in Asia.
The 6th GCSF forum took place from November 14 to 17, 2023, at the Grand Hotel Taipei, focusing on “Accelerating Transition in Global Change.” The four-day event hosted 24 forums, facilitating cross-disciplinary and cross-industry dialogues. With over 7,000 participants from diverse sectors including industry, government, academia, and research, the forum aimed to collectively discuss strategies for accelerating global low-carbon transition.
The driving force behind these initiatives is Taiwan Ambassador Eugene Chien, Chairman of A·SDGs and TAISE. Apart from his role in leading these organizations, Ambassador Chien currently serves as Taiwan’s ambassador-at-large and has previously held key positions such as Minister of Transportation and Communications, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Environment. Many regard him as the “Father of Sustainability.”
In an interview with 《The Icons》, Ambassador Chien shared his journey of advocating for ESG and SDGs since the foundation of TAISE 16 years ago:
“With the rapid pace of technological advancement, international dynamics, and climate change, it is essential for everyone to take decisive actions, in addition to consolidating efforts from various stakeholders, to accelerate the realization of net-zero and other sustainability goals.”
From Obscurity to Leading Sustainability in the Asia-Pacific Region
In response to global trends, various countries have introduced regulations, including the European Union’s new policies and the implementation of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) in October of this year. CBAM is set to impose carbon tariffs on goods imported into the EU, driving a global trend towards low-carbon transformation in supply chains. Taiwan has not lagged behind by passing the Climate Change Adaptation Act in early 2023 and establishing a carbon market in August, with carbon fees scheduled to be levied from 2024. In 2025, it plans to mandate listed companies to produce sustainability reports, making sustainability a prominent concern.
“At the beginning, it was indeed very challenging,” recalled Ambassador Chien about the early days of the foundation when sustainability issues were not receiving much attention. Despite the support from the Shin Kong Group’s fund and a few dedicated professors, the foundation faced the risk of discontinuation. Over the span of seven years, the foundation persevered through obstacles, especially when Taiwan showed limited interest in sustainability issues.
At that time, corporations were more focused on issues like earnings per share (EPS) and shareholder dividends. Ambassador Chien reminisced, “Initially, people were highly skeptical about investing in sustainability. However, as pioneers received positive feedback, those early corporate partners discovered that sustainable actions not only benefited society but also positively impacted their competitiveness.”
After a slow start, the foundation found its footing, and Ambassador Chien, with unwavering commitment, organized forums, workshops, courses, and various events, fostering collaboration across industries and sectors. Today, it has become a leader in advocating sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The Carrot Strategy” Captures Attention for Sustainable Development
Due to a lack of coercive power after leaving public service, advocating sustainability faced significant challenges. Businesses showed little interest and often couldn’t comprehend the immediate benefits of investing in sustainability. Nevertheless, Ambassador Chien remained steadfast: “There’s a saying, ‘carrot and stick.’ I didn’t have a stick, but I could use a carrot to spark interest.”
Following the “carrot strategy,” the foundation began organizing competitions to engage businesses. However, in the first year, only 16 companies participated, with five standing out and winning awards. Ambassador Chien vividly recalled the award ceremony, which featured Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng as a guest presenter. Despite the small venue and the presence of only about five people, the event left a lasting impression. Ambassador Chien admitted feeling somewhat disheartened at the time.
Today, with the impetus of international trends, sustainability has become a focal point, and the “Taiwan Corporate Sustainability Awards” (TCSA) is in its 16th year. The number of participating companies reached a record high at 526, with benchmark companies from various fields such as TSMC, E.SUN Financial, and Taiwan Mobile. The accumulated number of participating companies over the years has reached 731, accounting for 80% of Taiwan’s listed companies’ market value.
Ambassador Chien, akin to a preacher, firmly believes in the value of sustainable development and continuous advocacy. Today, sustainability has become a prominent and globally recognized issue.
Ambassador Eugene Chien: Green Economy Leading the Next 30 Years
In the current edition of the “Taiwan Corporate Sustainability Awards,” not only has the number of participating companies reached a new high, but leading companies in various fields, including TSMC, E.SUN Financial, and Taiwan Mobile, have also joined. The TCSA has become a prestigious representative of sustainability development awards in the Asia-Pacific region.
Ambassador Chien pointed out that global corporations such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and department stores like Walmart are demanding that companies achieve low-carbon transformation and fully use renewable energy by 2030. This presents a significant challenge for businesses and has led to a phenomenon known as “carbon anxiety” in Taiwan. However, Ambassador Chien firmly believes that Taiwan has the potential to lead globally in the field of sustainability.
“This is the beginning of a major transformation era!” Ambassador Chien emphasized that economies worldwide have explicitly stated their goals to achieve net-zero by 2050. Business owners should proactively understand and formulate medium to long-term plans to address the future trend of net-zero. He believes that change will bring opportunities.
Since 2007, Ambassador Chien has tirelessly emphasized the importance of sustainable development, urging society to collectively address climate change and environmental issues, creating a sustainable future. Today, low-carbon transformation has become an undeniable global trend, and Ambassador Chien is optimistic that the green economy will lead the next 30 years. He looks forward to the Asia-Pacific region contributing globally, guiding the world towards a path of sustainable development.
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