In the recent Thailand Sustainable Development Symposium 2011, Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra expressed that in today’s world, sustainable development is the key factor to international competitiveness.

“To be ready to compete effectively in an international arena,” the prime minister says, “we must build a strong foundation for our country to achieve sustainable economic, social and environmental balance.”

It’s a statement that adheres to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand’s 34-year-old philosophy of a “Sufficiency Economy,” which calls for the observation of a middle path, especially in pursuing economic development in a globalizing world.

The sufficiency economy philosophy is based on the concepts of due consideration and moderation to avoid taking advantage of others. It also embodies rationality and immunity—two values necessary to cope with critical challenges arising from rapid changes.

Among the leading proponents of the principles of a sufficient economy is the Siam Cement Group (SCG), an ASEAN conglomerate that has grown alongside the Thai economy for 100 years. “In the prolonged recession triggered by the U.S. economic crisis, as well as changing socio-economic and environmental conditions, SCG is a testament that His Majesty The King’s philosophy is an effective survival strategy for business,” states SCG President and CEO Kan Trakulhoon.

A hundred years since it started its operations in 1913, the Siam Cement Group has grown extensively and diversified into five core businesses that include SCG Chemicals, SCG Paper, SCG Cement, SCG Building Materials and SCG Distribution. Collectively, these core businesses comprise over 100 companies, employing a workforce of more than 30,000.

With manufacturing bases in Thailand and the ASEAN region, what sets SCG apart is that it has always conducted its businesses with a commitment to promoting creativity and innovation, and growth and development not only within its core business operations, but in the communities in which it operates as well.

The SCG Experience

SCG’s successful application of the King’s philosophy in its business operations has constantly drawn visitors from different sectors—from the government to the academe, to the private sector.

The market leader has always made it company policy to place a strong primer on the continuous innovation of its products, services, processes and business model, which have led to high value-added products featured at the SCG Experience.

A subsidiary of the SCG Distribution Company, the SCG Experience holds the solution to consumers’ every housing need. It is a venue that features various eco-Fvalue home products that satisfy the demand of both ordinary consumers and professionals in Construction and Architecture.

Among the more notable products showcased in the SCG Experience are eco-value innovations that include the SCG SmartBoard, a non-asbestos fiber cement board that can be used for exterior and interior applications; the SCG CPAC Monier, which are roof tiles with a “Wet on Wet” glaze that is designed for tropical climates; and COTTO, a popular and premium line of bathroom products—all designed with sustainability in mind.

“Cotto, for example, consumes only six liters of water instead of the usual 30 liters,” shares Thanasak Sakariganon, marketing division manager of Siam Sanitary Ware Ltd. Co. “We also use a Water Saving System in the manufacturing process of our chemical groups, which saves us 25 percent in electricity and reduces carbon dioxide emissions,” he adds.

Even the way SCG markets and showcases its products reflects a sustainable mindset. “We have technologies like the Product Self-Exploring service, the E-Brochure and the XP Virtual Room, which provide consumers an accurate, experiential picture of their home ideas using digital technology to minimize waste,” shares Venus Asavasitthithavorn, SCG director for Corporate Communications.

“We not only strive to develop innovative products and services that can compete in today’s marketplace, but we try to innovate with the future in mind. We look at the changing lifestyles of our consumers, emerging trade requirements, and pressing environmental concerns,” she adds.

SCG in the Philippines

SCG entered the Philippine market in 1993, and has since expanded its business network by putting up seven companies, namely United Pulp & Paper Co., Inc.; Mariwasa Siam Ceramics, Inc.; CPAC Monier Philippines, Inc.; SCG Trading Philippines, Inc.; Green Siam Resources, Inc.; Green Alternative Technology Specialist, Inc.; and SCG Marketing, Inc.

It has also been a staunch advocate of sustainable development in the Philippines, where the green movement is only at its beginning and eco-products are not as widely patronized by the mass market. “It’s a challenge because the eco products market in the Philippines is still small,” shares SCG Country Director Surasak Udomsilp, adding that there is a strong need to communicate to consumers about the value of sustainable development.

“Substandard materials come out 20 percent cheaper than the ones that meet international standards, and people usually end up going for the former because they still have that cost mindset,” Udomsilp says. Not only is this unfair to companies like SCG, whose products are manufactured in accordance with ISO 14021 standard and has the least negative impact on the environment, but to consumers as well.

“People here enjoy the lowest price, but we have to educate Filipinos that if you buy cheaper products, it won’t last long. And safety concerns figure in as well—there’s more risk of being in an accident when you buy cheap building materials,” he adds.

Udomsilp, however, reveals that he has an optimistic outlook regarding green policies in the Philippines.

“The Federation of Philippine Industries is now implementing sustainable development policies and it is trying to convince different industries to move toward such practices as well,” he reveals, adding that Mariwasa, being a subsidiary of SCG in the country, is among the leading green practitioners in the country. “Others are already moving forward as well. With regard to import, however, much of it is still from China because of the lowest cost. So,” he pronounces, “I want to leave a message to the government. There is no problem in allowing import from other countries, but products have to at least meet international standards to not only enable customers to enjoy, but to save the environment and the world as well.”

Published in the Business Agenda section of Manila Bulletin, October 3, 2011