How To Build A Resilient Future For Vietnam: A Sit-Down With Mimi Vu And Van Ly Of Raise Partners | Vietcetera
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Apr 12, 2024

How To Build A Resilient Future For Vietnam: A Sit-Down With Mimi Vu And Van Ly Of Raise Partners

Gain insights from the minds behind the 2024 ESG Investor Conference as they discuss advancements, challenges, and sector-specific strategies for driving Vietnam's sustainable future.
How To Build A Resilient Future For Vietnam: A Sit-Down With Mimi Vu And Van Ly Of Raise Partners

Mimi Vu and Van Ly of Raise Partners discuss strategies for building a resilient future in Vietnam. | Source: Vietcetera

2024 ESG Conference's sponsors

In the heart of Vietnam’s push towards a greener and more sustainable future, the 2024 ESG Investor Conference, presented by Raise Partners x Vietnam Innovators by Vietcetera, catalyzes sustainable investments and initiatives. We aim to create a space for dialogue, allowing leaders, innovators, and stakeholders to share the latest insights and foster thought leadership in ESG principles, driving Vietnam’s growth agenda forward. This year’s theme is “Building a Resilient Future for Vietnam,” slated for May 16-1​​7 in Ho Chi Minh City, which will focus on constructing resilience systems and managing dynamic, resilient supply chains.

Ahead of the conference, we had an opportunity to sit-down with our Mimi Vu and Van Ly from Raise Partners, an ESG consulting practice that helps the private sector, philanthropists, non-profits, and governments work in partnership to achieve their highest social and environmental impact. Their perspectives underscore the theme of building a resilient Vietnam, emphasizing the ongoing evolution of ESG integration and the necessity of tackling challenges and seizing opportunities with innovative solutions.

Last year’s ESG Investor Conference brought together top investors and companies, discussing high-yield, transparent investments addressing societal, environmental, and economic needs. | Source: Vietcetera

Since last year’s inaugural ESG conference, what have been the most significant advancements or impacts in Vietnam’s ESG landscape that you’ve observed?

Van: ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) frameworks and investment strategies have significantly moved into the mainstream for Vietnamese and international governments, corporations, and investors since 2020, with an even sharper focus since our last conference. What was once considered merely a branch of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or a superficial marketing tactic is now recognized as a fundamental component of business operations, investment decision-making, and adherence to global due diligence regulations.

This year’s Vietnam Business Forum—a pivotal meeting between the Vietnamese government and foreign business chambers—centered around ESG themes. Furthermore, Vietnam has attracted attention from investment funds that, while not exclusively ESG or impact-oriented, have woven ESG principles into their investment criteria. There’s a notable rise in financial commitments from development finance institutions (DFIs) in countries like Australia, the Netherlands, the UK, and Belgium. These DFIs aim to support Vietnam in addressing its social, environmental, and economic challenges through private sector investment, reflecting a broad-based acknowledgment of ESG’s critical role in sustainable development.

Mimi Vu at the Vietnam ESG Investor Conference 2023 | Source: Vietcetera

While there have been many wins, there are still some persistent challenges. Based on these challenges, what are the immediate priorities for stakeholders, and how does this year’s conference aim to address these priorities?

Mimi: There are so many challenges, and we can’t solve them all with one conference, but here are some of the key issues that, if resolved, can result in dramatic positive changes to Vietnam’s ESG and investment landscape. Let me highlight three here:

First, there’s a need to bridge the information and communication divide between investors’ expectations and the ESG disclosures that Vietnamese companies can and should provide. This gap is exacerbated by a lack of adequate funding and manpower dedicated to reinforcing companies’ internal capacity to effectively manage ESG commitments.

Second, there are no universally accepted, standardized ESG criteria and baselines. Investors and governments seek adaptable benchmarks across sectors yet the current landscape lacks a cohesive set of indicators, making it difficult to uniformly assess and implement ESG practices.

Third, there’s a lack of awareness among companies regarding the variety and availability of ESG-related financing opportunities available. While some know of large Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) that offer substantial funding, a wide array of financing options often go unexplored, including sustainability loans, impact financing, and blended finance options, among others.

Van: What Mimi mentioned are all undeniably critical and practical issues. Another one is that investors and companies are waiting for clarity and direction from governments—both Vietnamese and foreign—on all the incoming plans and laws related to ESG that companies and investors will have to abide by soon (e.g., EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism [CBAM]), especially in manufacturing and trade. It’s difficult to invest in planning and adjusting operations if there is a lack of clarity on what needs to be done, how, and by when.

Van Ly at the Vietnam ESG Investor Conference 2023 | Source: Vietcetera

Considering the focus on engaging deeper with specific sectors, could you detail any sector-specific events or discussions at this year’s conference? How will these sessions address the challenges of integrating ESG in these specific industries?

Mimi: For us, the nuances are based on the fact that E, S, and G do not exist and operate independently of each other. You cannot talk about plastic reduction and the circular economy without considering human behavior or how to incorporate female informal waste pickers into a more efficient and environmentally friendly waste-management plan. This intersectional perspective is woven throughout the conference as we discuss in greater detail the challenges and investment opportunities found across all three letters, in addition to local economic impact.

We’ll cover a diverse range of topics, including the finance sector’s role in climate transition, financial inclusion for lower-skilled workers, a case study on organic shrimp farming and mangrove forests in the Mekong Delta, inclusive workforce development for green and tech jobs, and many more.

Considering the emphasis on tailoring Western ESG practices to Vietnam’s socio-economic and environmental landscape, what lessons have been learned, and how are these being applied to make ESG strategies more effective and relevant for Vietnam?

Van: The lessons are still being learned. One big lesson for international investors is that there is no separation between ESG and local economic impact. The West tends to silo each into its category, with E receiving the bulk of the attention and funding. The reality on the ground, especially for developing markets like Vietnam, is that E, S, G, and economic motivations influence each other. Consequently, any effective investment strategy must consider these influences. At the very least, to minimize any unintended negative consequences, but on the other hand, a company that accounts for this intersectionality can have more effective strategy implementation and better accounting of the total value of their impact and ROI.

(L-R) Mimi Vu and Van Ly - Partners at Raise Partners, and Sarah Hooper - Australian Consul General in HCMC | Source: Vietcetera

Based on the outcomes and discussions from the upcoming conference, what are your hopes for the future of ESG in Vietnam over the next year? How do you envision the role of Raise Partners evolving in this landscape?

Van: I want to see a continued evolution of the level of detailed discussion around ESG best practices and further integration of ESG principles into regular business operations and investment strategies, even if the fund isn’t specifically impacted or ESG-focused. I do see the investment landscape trending rapidly in Vietnam. I would also like to see an increase in investments aligned with Vietnamese and international action plans, laws, and directives, but that means there needs to be more communication and cooperation between governments and the private sector. International and local Vietnamese government policies help direct investment strategies, but investors and companies can also have a role in informing and advising governments on the policies needed to unlock further investment, successfully implement Vietnam’s action plans, and reach its ambitious targets.

Mimi: Raise Partners will continue to play our roles as connectors, conveners, thought leaders, and advocates for ESG and responsible investing. We will continue to convene existing and newer stakeholders (such as NGOs) to talk about challenges and opportunities in a pragmatic, action-oriented, and intersectional way and help set up actual investment and implementation partnerships.

Van and I both have a long history working in development in Vietnam across all sectors and in partnership with the private sector, NGOs, and governments. We’re used to seeing things from different perspectives, and this is reflected in our ability to move easily across our diverse networks while communicating these perspectives to many different stakeholders. We both have always had the professional and personal goals of making sure that Vietnam develops as well as possible—socially, culturally, economically, and environmentally—and that has remained the same as we continue to help mainstream ESG principles as part of doing business in Vietnam.

The 2024 Vietnam ESG Investor Conference by Raise Partners and Vietnam Innovators by Vietcetera

Join us in the two-day conference to engage with investors and funds, business leaders, Vietnamese and international governments, start-ups, experts, academia, and the media to spark meaningful collaboration and accelerate green and inclusive growth in Vietnam.

When: 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM, 16-17th May 2024
Where: New World Saigon Hotel76 Le Lai Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Event details: find out more HERE

Thank you to our sponsors:Dynam Capital and Vietnam Holding (Title Sponsor), Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Leading Government Partner), British University Vietnam, HSBC Vietnam (Major Sponsor), New World Saigon Hotel (Venue Sponsor), Vero Asean (Official Communications Partner), Eurocham and Nordcham (Promotional Partner)