Liz Hung supports a lot of the imaginative concepts being discussed to make Vietnam “greener” economically and in terms of urban planning.
Consider traffic lights. Hung described how government authorities could collect smartphone data to see which streets are crowded, and then calibrate the stoplights to optimize traffic flow.
Hung and others in the private sector are giving Vietnamese officials their wish list for a green economy, from more renewable energy to buildings that collect rain water for use.
“Road congestion costs us at least 2 to 5% of our [gross domestic product] growth every year because of the time we lost or the high transportation cost, so that is why being smart [in] mobility is very crucial,” said Hung, who is CBRE associate director of Asia Pacific Research.
Hung’s comment highlights the link between good city planning and economic benefits.
Emulating China, Australia
There is also a larger debate about whether the economic benefits outweigh the costs of going green.
There is a financial cost of technology to make Vietnam more efficient. But there also is a security cost, as “smart devices,” like lights connected to the internet, have looser security settings that make them easier to hack.
In looking for inspiration for Vietnam’s future, Hung looked at places from Hangzhou, China, where she heard about the traffic data, to Adelaide, Australia, where authorities installed smart sensors in trash bins, which alert garbage collectors when the bins are nearly full.
If the idea is to increase efficiency, Vietnam should think about energy use, said Tomaso Andreatta, vice chair at the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.
Last month, the chamber held a forum on sustainable cities. In addition to rooftop solar panels and wind turbines, some cities are exploring ways to create energy from things that would otherwise be tossed out.
Trash can be burned, for example, to boil water for steam generators that produce electricity, a process known as waste-to-energy. This does risk increasing carbon emissions or decreasing incentives for recycling, however.
Aiming for zero waste
“More and more we realize that resources are limited, and producing waste destroys the quality of life,” Andreatta said. “Therefore, there’s been a movement worldwide to reducing waste to an absolute minimum, ideally zero.”
He went on to say, “The rapid development of the middle class and its lifestyle, which includes intensive air conditioning use, accounts for a considerable proportion of energy consumption growth.”
It may be the middle class that benefits most from a greener Vietnam, where the private sector steps in to create greater efficiencies, when the government is not involved.
Property developers are building enclosed communities where sustainability is part of the design, whether it’s motion-detecting lights, or insulation that keeps indoor temperatures manageable. One developer introduced pollution warnings. Another made a transportation app just for its residents.
But what about those who are not lucky enough to live in a gated community? Government officials say they are listening to proposals across all sectors. They say that as Vietnam faces a major threat from climate change, it needs to make greater efforts at green planning.
“Climate change will have a big impact on the region,” said Huynh Xuan Thu, deputy chief officer of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Architecture and Urban Planning.
Some of the ideas, such as a country full of electric cars, may be a pipe dream or years down the road. But Vietnam is getting started on some of the proposals. In Ho Chi Minh City, officials are looking at traffic sensors and gathering data on congestion, which they hope to reduce through technology in the near future. (VOA)
Be assertive. Speak out. Lean in. The world of work continues to tell women what they have to do to succeed in a hyper competitive business environment.
But some are getting tired of being told how to fit in, and in Vietnam some are now pushing back against these demands. They say the status quo is a work culture created by men, one that forces women to assimilate. In place of this, women are asserting new skills — like listening, or taking care of the group — that they think don’t get enough attention from employers.
“I want to become a leader like my mother, someone who both does well in my work, as well as takes care of my family, bringing up five children,” said Ha Thu Thanh, chairwoman of the accounting firm Deloitte Vietnam.
Forkast News founder Angie Lau said there are certain skills typically associated with women, but they should be encouraged in men, too. “The women here have the skills that are absolutely in demand for the economy that will be tomorrow — empathy, vulnerability, sensitivity, compassion, kindness, listening,” she said at a Forbes women’s conference in Ho Chi Minh City. “These are skills that we are not necessarily born with, but it’s actually encouraged and nurtured for women.”
Vulnerability and kindness are not obvious tools to get ahead in one’s career. But that could be an outdated product of history: Most office cultures were formed starting decades ago, at a time when women were shut out of many professions, leaving men to shape those cultures. Lau noted both women and men have been socialized to believe they naturally have different traits, that one gender is more authoritative, or that another is more emotional. So with men in charge for so long, it’s no surprise that offices came to favor traits considered masculine, from beating out the competition, to boasting of one’s triumphs.
But what if a company rewarded the modest, as well as the boastful? The competitive, as well as the collaborative? Women are challenging old ideas of what it means to succeed professionally. Instead of just changing themselves to fit the work environment, they are changing the environment to include them, to value a broader set of skills.
“Our goal is not to compare ourselves to men, our goal is not to be better or worse,” said Amanda Rasmussen, chief operating officer of ITL Corp, a logistics firm in Vietnam. “Use the things that make you unique, whether it’s being collaborative or empathetic or the ability to be real or the ability to care for those around you.”
Advice like “lean in” or “be assertive” puts the responsibility on women to adapt to the way things already are. But Lau and others say men need to do their part, too. Murray Edwards College surveyed hundreds of women, who reported many similar challenges at work, from being interrupted at meetings, to being left out of business conducted over a round of golf. While women should speak up, men also should notice how they’re ignoring women in meetings and speak up for them, college president Barbara Stocking wrote in a Financial Times op-ed.
Vietnam has its own version of mixing business and golf. Business partners commonly strike deals at bars filled with paid escorts. To bond, colleagues “nhau” or go out for street beers. Both are activities that specifically exclude women.
“Women have to overcome more difficulties than men to become good leaders,” said Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh, president of electrical firm REE Corp. She cited the example of family limitations, not just needing to raise children, but being limited professionally if one’s husband or other family oppose “the career woman.”
If power dynamics are changing, then globally this extends beyond business. In the U.S. some wonder if “win at all cost” competitiveness has made politicians polarizing and unwilling to compromise. In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern champions a politics of compassion, to replace cutthroat politics.